2017-10-26 / Front Page

Historic Landmark Plan Springs Forward

By Bob Rulli

A group working to reclaim the Historic Newport Town Spring at the location of the former Coffey's Citgo gas station on Spring Street gave an update of its efforts on Oct. 19 to about 75 people at the Newport Public Library.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save this property," said Lily Dick, chair of the Newport Spring Leadership Committee, who is leading the effort along with committee members Steve Ostiguy and Tanya Kelly.

Many historians believe the spring is the spot where Newport was founded in 1639, and with its close proximity to the Touro Synagogue, it symbolizes the religious freedom sought by early settlers.

This week’s cleanup of the site could give a glimpse into the future if proposed road closures, such as those imposed for the cleanup, become permanent. The cleanup must be completed by December in order to stay in compliance with a state Department of Environmental Management mandate that the fuel tanks at the location be removed, said Ostiguy, who is also executive director of Church Community Housing Corp.

Once the tanks are removed, an assessment of the required additional soil remediation will be determined. While initially anticipated to be completed in 2017, a series of procedure issues such as completion of the City's Open Space Master Plan and a traffic study were required to be addressed before moving forward.

Kelly offered architectural renderings showing what the proposed park would look like when completed. The group is looking to permanently close a portion of Court House Street and create a new traffic pattern.

In a survey, Kelly said the public provided input and drawings on what it wanted to see at the park. Items of importance included the ability to walk through the site, information regarding its history and nearby historic buildings. Nearly 60 percent of the people recommended that the Coffey's gas station building be removed. Kelly told those in attendance that the results of the survey are available at historicnewportspring.org.

Ultimately, Dick said putting a conservation easement on the site and transferring it to the Aquidneck Island Land Trust is most likely how the site will be preserved.

Kelly told the crowd, "There may be a water feature incorporated into the final design," but that contamination of the groundwater in the area makes a natural spring impossible to include.

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