The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) has released its 2015-2016 annual report on rights-of-way in the state, “Designation of Public Rights-of-Way to The Tidal Areas of The State.” The report is available online.
From July 2015 through June 2016, the CRMC continued its ongoing efforts to discover and designate public rights-of-way to the tidal areas of Rhode Island, under its legislative mandate (RIGL 46-23-17). Beginning in 1978, this mandate tasked the Council with identifying and designating all public rights-of-way to the shore. To meet this charge, the CRMC created a Rights-of-Way Subcommittee. The report details actions of the subcommittee, as well as legal proceedings stemming from these activities and subsequent actions of the Council.
During the report period, one new right-of-way was designated at Old Ferry Road in Bristol. After investigation by CRMC staff during the previous report period, the potential ROW was submitted to legal counsel for further review, and then forward on to the Rights-of-Way Subcommittee. Following an August 2015 public hearing on the matter, and a workshop in September 2015, the subcommittee recommended Old Ferry Road as a candidate for designation before the full CRMC Council, which voted unanimously in favor of the right-of-way in January 2016. This brings the total number of CRMC designated rights-of-way in the state to 222.
Other activities during the reporting period include the RI Superior Court case of Kilmartin v. Barbuto in which R.I. Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin brought suit against certain homeowners at Misquamicut Beach in Westerly. Kilmartin claimed an approximately 2-mile lone stretch of land along the shore and extending landward from the Atlantic Ocean as belonging to the general public, per a 1909 Plat map showing a subdivision across which the original owners offered an easement. The AG sought declaratory judgment from the Court to forbid the current owners from interfering with the public’s right to use the area as a public easement to the shore. The Court denied the declaratory judgment request, concluding that the 1909 Plat did not create an easement. The Attorney General’s office has stated it will appeal the decision, and filed a brief to this effect in June 2016.
The CRMC also served in an advisory capacity to the Blackstone Park Conservancy and the Narragansett Boat Club regarding the groups’ proposed changes to the waterfront along a section of River Road in the City of Providence. The current two-way traffic pattern may be modified to one way traffic at certain portions of River Road, with a pedestrian-bicycle pathway established adjacent to the coastal feature. Increased recreational fishing and kayaking opportunities are proposed, as are additional rights-of-way with attendant parking. Significant upgrades to the storm water management infrastructure are also proposed, with the CRMC serving as an advisor.
Save The Bay, with the cooperation of the CRMC, also updated the CRMC’s ArcGIS Online map of all 222 rights-of-way. The CRMC has completed photography of all CRMC ROWs and the photos will be used to update the map. A student intern hired by the CRMC through the University of Rhode Island Environmental Data Center worked to create a new GIS shapefile that will include information on current conditions and other information at every right-of-way, and the new file will be added to the RIGIS database upon completion. The map may be viewed online.
The goal of the CRMC is to designate at least one public right-of-way for each mile of shoreline. With 222 sites designated along 420 miles of Rhode Island shoreline, the Council is more than halfway to its goal. Please visit our website for more information on the CRMC ROW designation process.