The Cranston City Council has adopted a long-term plan to improve parks and public trails in the city. The parks plan, developed by Ward 1 Councilman Steve Stycos, identifies eight locations spread …
The Cranston City Council has adopted a long-term plan to improve parks and public trails in the city. The parks plan, developed by Ward 1 Councilman Steve Stycos, identifies eight locations spread out across the city.
“The idea is to get these projects on the city’s radar screen,” he said. “We spend a million dollars a year paving streets and we haven’t spent anything on open space in quite a while.”
The councilman identified the eight spots in large part from his own travels, consulting with his fellow council members when it involved another ward. Touring the targeted areas last Thursday, Stycos said he is confident that the improvements can be made at little cost to the city.
“It’s designed to not be expensive. This is for when there is money and opportunity,” he said.
In his ward, Stycos focused on the area along the Pawtuxet River and Bellefont Pond.
First, the city would acquire trail easements and land to better link the Pawtuxet River Trail from Rhodes on the Pawtuxet to Warwick Avenue. Part of that land is the former Supply Depot off Warwick Avenue, across from the new Stop & Shop. The Department of Environmental Management abandoned the building, and Stycos wants to see that the land is cleaned up and maintained for trail access. In a perfect world, the existing building, which was severely flooded in 2010, would be razed. On the opposite side of the street, the city would request that Yardworks move back their chain link fence approximately 10 feet in order to continue the path along the river. If enacted, the trail would then connect with residential streets leading to Roger Williams Park.
Much of this land is already maintained in part by the Friends of the Pawtuxet, who regularly organize cleanups.
“The Friends of the Pawtuxet does what it can to promote the trails,” Stycos said.
The second Ward 1 project is next to the former Ciba-Geigy property. The current owner, BASF, is in the process of testing the soil and pond for contamination. Under Stycos’ plan, the city would formally notify BASF of their interest in the land across from the commercial building, and potentially work with the business owner to create a park next to Bellefont Pond.
On May 1, there will be a public meeting to discuss the potential for this land with the property owners, who will also report to the neighbors about their ongoing environmental study. The meeting will take place at Park View Middle School at 7:30 p.m., and representatives from DEM will be there.
One of the more challenging projects, but one Stycos sees a great deal of potential in, is to establish a bike path and/or walking trail along the Providence Water Supply Board’s easement that runs from Pontiac Avenue to Midway Road and into Garden City Center. Connecting the path would require the endorsement of the water supply board, but also could involve Garden City owners The Wilder Companies to see if there is an opportunity to connect the path to the shopping center.
Stycos said this project, which involves Wards 4, 5 and 6, is ideal because “it gives you an attractive way into Garden City.”
“You could come from CLCF to Garden City and never go on a road,” he added.
Another bike and walking trail is identified in the plan as the Pontiac Spur bike bath. Some of the path already exists, but the council would like to see the abandoned railway opened up and turned into a safe trail in order to connect Wellington Avenue to Knight Street at the Warwick/Cranston line. The trail, which would be three miles long, would have to cross over a rail bridge over Route 95 that is currently blocked off. With all of the trail concepts, the city would need to establish signage.
Two Ward 4 projects would likewise offer walking trails to residents. The Twin Lakes Connection, as detailed in the plan, would remove 31 parking spaces at Cranston West to allow for a tree-lined trail along Meshanticut Brook. The trail would lead to Angell’s Pond, where, in the future, Stycos envisions fishing or boating access. This, obviously, would require school department approval, as well as an easement from Providence Water Supply Board that owns the western bank of the brook.
Along the Historic Farm Route, developing a trail network proves to be a challenge. The city would need to acquire land or easements, including property on Hope Farm, to connect city-owned conservation land and Audubon Society land to the Curran State Park off Laten Knight Road.
Stycos recognizes that this project would require a significant financial investment but said passing the plan is the council’s way of prioritizing open space projects.
“This is designed to get that process started,” he said. “As the mayor’s office looks at each of these, what I’m expecting to happen is some of them will pop up to be relatively easy to do. I don’t think you try to do them all at once.”
Two of the easier concepts come in Wards 3 and 5. In Ward 3, the council would like to see Calise Field improved. Possible changes include a trail along the Print Works Pond, a community garden and reconfigured parking areas for the baseball fields and Cranston ARC in order to maximize green space. Even adding picnic tables, Stycos said, would encourage families to utilize the space.
In Ward 5, a designer or landscape architect would need to come in and develop a plan for the unused land behind the existing Knightsville Park and Gazebo. Stycos met with a professor from RISD about potentially getting students involved in the plan design.
For all of these projects, no timeline has been established, but Stycos believes taking a proactive approach will benefit the city in the long run. The state administers grants up to $3,000 specifically for trails and park improvements.
“The city should be in the position to say, if there is money available, ‘OK, here is what we want to do. We’ve thought about this and we’ve got a plan,’” Stycos said. “That money tends to go to Smithfield and Richmond and preserving these pristine areas, but the people live here. I think you need to develop your parks where the people are. I think they get more use and you’re encouraging people not to drive an hour to do recreation.”
To view the parks plan maps, visit WestBayLandTrust.org.