January 8th, 2007 06:02 EST
Land swap in Rhode Island will expand bike trail, benefit wildlife
A land exchange within the Town of Narragansett, R.I., will allow for both the extension of the William C. O?Neill Bike Path and the addition of important coastal habitat to the John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge at Pettaquamscutt Cove. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in December turned ownership of a 1.46 acre former railroad right-of-way over to the Town in exchange for 15.43 acres of coastal marsh adjacent to existing refuge land. The parcels were appraised at equal market value.
?The exchange allows for both the continuation of the bike path and the protection of highly valued wildlife habitat in Pettaquamscutt Cove. The project took some time to come to fruition, however the benefits that will result will serve both wildlife and people for generations to come,? said Charles Vandemoer, Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex manager.
Acquisition of the right-of-way will allow the Town and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to extend the bike path from Wakefield to the east side of U.S. Route 1 into Narragansett.
?This land swap allows us to extend the William C. O?Neill Bike Path into Narragansett, a vital component of our Statewide bicycle network,? said RIDOT Director James R. Capaldi, P.E. ?To date, we have just over 42 miles of path throughout the State, and we are grateful to the Town of Narragansett and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for recognizing the impact of this swap as we work toward further expansion.?
The William C. O?Neill Bike Path, named for the late State Senator who represented both Narragansett and South Kingstown, was originally conceived two decades ago by the RIDOT in concert with the towns of South Kingstown and Narragansett.
?This connection between Wakefield and Narragansett Pier and beach will provide a safer and scenic alternative to bicyclist use of the Dillon Rotary,? stated Michael DeLuca, Narragansett town planner. He added, ?Reuse of the former Narragansett Pier Rail tunnel under Route 1 will lend an historical flair to the bike path.?
Phase one of the bike path was completed in 2003. It currently runs from the Kingston Rail Station to Route 108 in Wakefield just west of Route 1. However, its extension into Narragansett was delayed when local concerns were raised about use of a short stretch of Schoolhouse Road to reach the temporary terminus at Narragansett Elementary School.
James Durkin, a Narragansett Town Council member declared, ?This land swap is what I envisioned three years ago when I first raised the idea to find an alternative to Schoolhouse Road for the bike path. It?s a win-win decision for both the Town and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Construction of this part of the bike path will serve the public without impacting our residential neighborhoods.?
The five national wildlife refuges within the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex protect a wide variety of plant and animal habitats, including rocky shores, upland forests, native grasslands and wetlands. The John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge at Pettaquamscutt Cove was established in 1989 to protect the population of black ducks that winter there. The refuge?s tidal salt marshes and forests attract many types of birds; it is one of the few places in Rhode Island that is home to the salt marsh sharp-tailed sparrow.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.