The state Department of Environmental Management awards $80,000 to a trail expansion project at the close to 50-acre Town park on High Street behind the Aquidneck Shopping Centre.
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STATE AWARDS $80,000 TO MIDDLETOWN VALLEY PARK PROJECT
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (JULY 15, 2021) – The Middletown Valley Park trail expansion project received an $80,000 boost from the state recently.
According to a letter from Acting Department of Environmental Management Director Terrence Gray, the Town’s project was a standout among the 34 applications seeking more than $2.2 million in support for trail-based recreation across Rhode Island.
A news report today indicated Middletown’s project was one of 22 projects that received $1.4 million in state DEM funding. The report also indicated the Norman Bird Sanctuary got a $68,600 grant for highly trafficked trails at the wildlife refuge at 583 Third Beach Road.
“This is definitely good news for the Town of Middletown, its residents, businesses and visitors,” Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown. “We’re constantly striving to make family friendly Middletown the best community it can be to live, work and play.”
The Town purchased the close to 50-acre Middletown Valley parcel behind the Aquidneck Shopping Centre from the Kempenaar Family in 2004, saving the property from a rumored new housing development.
In 2017, the Town opened a 1.3-mile passive trail network that’s been embraced by residents in the High Street area and other nearby neighborhoods as a quiet, relaxing place to walk and enjoy the outdoors.
Earlier this year, the Town Council okayed a request from the Town’s Planning Department to apply for the state “Recreation Trail Grant” money. At the same time, the Council said it was not signing off on the final design of the project, something that must get a formal review by the Town’s top elected body.
The Town’s application to the state showed about .6 miles of new trails added to the southern third of the Middletown Valley. If those plans get the go ahead from the council, they would be connected to the existing trails. No new parking was included in the Town’s proposal to the state.
The council is expected to take up the matter at its first meeting in August, scheduled for Aug. 2 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.
“Ever since COVID-19 hit, there’s definitely been an increase in interest in outdoor passive recreation,” the town administrator Brown said. “The Valley has really become an integral part of Middletown, a place on the west side for people to get away and enjoy what makes this town great right in the heart of our community.”
A news report indicated Gov. Dan McKee was proud and supportive of the trail grant program, saying it helped everyone enjoy the Ocean State that much more.
“Our state's vast network of recreational trails enhances the enjoyment of Rhode Island's tremendous natural resources and provides an opportunity for people of all ages to enjoy nature and get fit by taking a walk or a hike in a peaceful, relaxing setting,” McKee said. “It is a pleasure to award these federal grants to develop new recreational trails and hiking paths and make needed upgrades to existing facilities in communities across Rhode Island.”
Applications were made to DEM over the winter and reviewed by the DEM Trails Advisory Committee. The money can be used to build new trails, or restore and improve existing trails, whether for hiking and similar recreational uses. To accept the money, the Town is on the hook for a 20 percent match, meaning about $16,000.
“Rhode Island is fortunate to enjoy a strong network of active municipalities and non-profit organizations seeking to provide new and expanded opportunities for Rhode Islanders to explore the beauty of our state's natural areas and woodlands,” the acting DEM director Gray said in a news report. “DEM and DOT staff work closely with Federal Highway Administration representatives to support these many wonderful projects.”