2017-04-06 / Opinion

Hands Across the Water

EDITORIAL


With a few modifications, the walkway around Easton's Pond could safely connect Newport to Middletown's developing Easton's Point neighborhood and the beaches. Since 2007, Middletown officials developed the Atlantic Beach Master Plan, which portrayed a pedestrian-friendly business district that highlights the area’s water views. With a few modifications, the walkway around Easton's Pond could safely connect Newport to Middletown's developing Easton's Point neighborhood and the beaches. Since 2007, Middletown officials developed the Atlantic Beach Master Plan, which portrayed a pedestrian-friendly business district that highlights the area’s water views. There is no shortage of master plans these days making the rounds in Newport and Middletown. In the past year, Newport has seen the winding down of the two-year, $5.8 million revitalization of the southern end of Broadway. Committees have presented plans for Open Space, the North End and the North End Innovation Hub. Middletown is imparting a new look to the Two-Mile Corner, and it has recently taken a closer look at development options for the lower end of Aquidneck Ave., closest to Easton’s Beach, calling it the Atlantic Beach District Master Plan.

With ideas gaining traction for changes on that end of Aquidneck Ave., there is one aspect that, for islanders who are anticipating the surge in summer traffic, seems ill-advised. In the interest of pedestrian safety, a RIDOT plan is in the works to remove the slip lane from the intersection between the Newport Beach House and Flo’s, and to build a bump-out for pedestrian safety. Even the mention sparked concerns about increasing traffic congestion in an already congested area.

If you put traffic concerns aside, there are interesting possibilities. For the past 10 years, Middletown has been discussing such a plan. The newest iteration outlines a future of a pedestrian-friendly business district for the Aquidneck Ave., Easton’s Point Area of Middletown.

In alignment, we offer a plan of our own. It might work to physically link the two communities, via a walkway across Easton’s Pond, to make it possible for Newporters to walk into Middletown. If done right, it could transform the lower Aquidneck streetscape into something akin to the upgraded Broadway.

It would also establish a tie and a bond between Newport and Middletown to build out a pedestrian pathway around the Easton’s Pond reservoir. The walking path already exists, which like sections of the Cliff Walk, is passable only for the sturdy of leg, and would require some work. From the Newport side, the connection would begin on Bliss Mine Road. Once crossed, walkers (perhaps with strollers, dogs or bikes) would find themselves on Aquidneck Ave., with Aquidneck School right up the hill, and the restaurants and businesses leading to Easton’s Beach. What a connection it would make, physically and culturally.

This would encourage community-friendly business development in the area, such as restaurants, retail shops and inns. It would connect the two communities and the beach area in a new way. Today, Middletown businesses feel that they “compete” with Newport. This might foster a whole new relationship.

Some may argue that pedestrian traffic should be banned along the town water supply reservoirs. Many communities successfully manage such recreational uses. Some even allow boating. The American Waterworks Association maintains the “multiple uses of some water supply reservoirs can be desirable as long as such uses are compatible with the latter supply objective.”

Such a hands-across-the-water approach could be a creative way to link the two communities, create business and do something for local residents.

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