Warren hopes wharf upgrade will draw visitors to town

First phase of restoration project on the way; second phase includes as many as 12 transient slips

By Ted Hayes
Posted 1/18/19

The Town of Warren will try again to win a federal grant it lost out on last year that would help officials complete as much as $3.5 million in much-needed repairs to the seawall at the Town Wharf on …

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Warren hopes wharf upgrade will draw visitors to town

First phase of restoration project on the way; second phase includes as many as 12 transient slips

Posted

The Town of Warren will try again to win a federal grant it lost out on last year that would help officials complete as much as $3.5 million in much-needed repairs to the seawall at the Town Wharf on Water Street.
Just as important as resolving the wall’s structural issues, officials believe the grant will help boost Warren’s economy, bringing tourist dollars to town and making the waterfront more accessible to visitors from across Rhode Island and beyond.
As first reported last week, the town council recently awarded a $1.27 million contract to a marine contracting firm for the first half of a two phase project to rebuild a section of the wharf seawall that has been deteriorating for many years. That project, the first part of which is funded by a voter-approved bonds, is expected to commence some time this winter and should be complete by the summer.
But to complete the project, officials will soon re-apply through Rhode Island DEM for a US Fish and Wildlife transient boating grant which would cover a portion of the project’s second phase, which is estimated to cost $2 to $2.5 million. According to the town’s previous grant application, the wharf’s restoration and improvement will have a direct positive impact on the town’s economy, finances and growing reputation as a destination. Apart from allowing workers to complete restoration of the seawall, officials plan to use grant funds to:
* Add several main floats and finger floats dedicated to transient boats of at least 26 feet, allowing as many as a dozen large transients to tie up at any one time.
* Add bathroom, shower, trash and recycling receptacles, as well as power facilities for transient boaters.
* Add historical signage and volunteer landscaping and beautification projects in areas not otherwise designated for parking or transient facilities.
All new amenities would likely be free of charge, Warren Town Planner Bob Rulli said.
“The Town of Warren is committed to revitalizing its commercial areas and has identified those areas in close proximity to the wharf as priorities,” the grant application reads. “The opportunity to use the wharf as an additional gateway for visitors and transient boaters will benefit all stakeholders.”
Though town officials sought approximately $703,000 last year through the grant, Mr. Rulli said Friday that the town will likely seek “slightly” more when it applies for the grant in the coming weeks. The rest, he said, would come from capital funds.
Few are as versed on the wharf, and visiting boaters, as Warren Harbormaster Ed Cabral. While he said many of the layout and other details need to be worked out, he believes putting in transient slips — most likely at the small cut-in along the wharf’s north wall — will have a big impact.
“I get requests” for transient slips all the time, he said Thursday. While the town’s four transient moorings along the river have been in place for several years, “the docks would go one step further” and would make it much easier for visitors to come ashore and patronize downtown businesses.
“I think it would definitely add to the buzz,” he said, adding that one sailing couple who regularly travel up to Warren from the Carolinas and tie up to a transient mooring estimate they spend about $2,000 per month in town.
If the town is successful and wins the grant this coming year, the work would likely commence in the winter of 2020 and would be ready by that summer’s boating season.

Other changes
Though it’s not part of the town wharf project, Mr. Cabral said he has other changes planned that hopefully will increase the river’s utility, help access and bring in visitors.
He has been working with Warren Recreation Director Tara Thibaudeau on a plan to bring in dinghy docks and kayak racks to the Warren Town Beach and hopefully elsewhere, in time. The dinghy racks are sorely needed to service the transient moorings, which are located off the town beach, and there has been a lot of interest too in putting in kayak racks for those who wish to leave them by the water.
“We’re hoping to get it done,” he said. Right now “we’re trying to come up with a design.”

A brief history

The old town wharf covers just over one square acre and dates back to at least 1851, when it was known as the Hale-Collins Wharf. Over the years it was used for many commercial purposes, mainly as a coal depot for the Staples Coal Company. It was in its current configuration as early as 1913, according to records found in the Warren Town Clerk’s office.
In 2002 and 2003, aided by a gift from the late Luther Blount, the town worked with the Trust for Public Land to acquire the property. As part of that acquisition, the wharf was set aside for public use and public parking spaces were set aside in the clamshell-paved property.
In 2015, visual inspections both above and below the waterline uncovered structural deficiencies in the many repairs that had been made to the wharf over time. Problems included deteriorating steel plates that had previously been installed to prevent back fill loss from wave and tidal action. Also, inspections showed that many large granite blocks had shifted.

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