2015-12-23 / Around Town

Cliff Walk Panel Guides World Class Site

By Tom Walsh

The adjectives used to describe one of Newport’s most cherished attractions are nothing short of glowing. The descriptions start with “unique” and work their way up to “breathtaking, spectacular, world famous.”

Newport’s 3.5-mile Cliff Walk, starting at the west end of Easton’s Beach and finishing at the east end of Bailey’s Beach (at the part of that beach that is fondly known as “Reject’s Beach”) was designated as a National Recreational Trail in 1975. It was the 65th trail so designated in the United States and the first in New England.

Combining the natural beauty high above the rocky Atlantic Ocean with backyard views of Newport’s Gilded Age mansions, an estimated quarter of a million visitors of all ages take all or part of the walk annually.

“We’re all very proud of the Cliff Walk,” enthused Robert B. Power, chairman of the five-member Cliff Walk Commission that provides policy advice concerning the Cliff Walk to the Newport City Council and works to preserve the famous walk in an often unfriendly natural environment.

“What we constantly face with the Atlantic Ocean is nature trying to take a piece of the Island away,” Power said. “As stewards of the Cliff Walk, we are always trying not to lose a piece of the island.”

The Cliff Walk—and the Cliff Walk Commission— faced a stern test in late October, 2012 when Hurricane Sandy stormed ashore on Newport’s eastern shore that includes the Cliff Walk. Large sections of the walk were washed away. In some areas the storm moved giant boulders. Portions of the walk had to be closed and did not reopen until June, 2014 after more than $5 million in restorations.

For Power, the Cliff Walk has been a lifelong preoccupation.

“There was a Cliff Walk Commission that went out of existence,” he said. But soon after another such panel was named. “That’s how I got involved,” Power said. But even before that, the Cliff Walk had been part of his life.

“When I was just a little kid, I walked the Cliff Walk with my parents,” Power recalled. “It’s really a big, big tourist attraction, the largest in Rhode Island.”

The five members of the Cliff Walk Commission are appointed by the Newport City Council. By ordinance the commission meets at the call of the chair. “We meet every single month, and attendance is good,” Power said. These meetings occur at the Newport Public Library, usually in the first floor Rotary Room. Chairman Power can be reached at 401-862-1438.

Cliff Walk Commission
First Appointed
Robert B. Power, chair 7/12/00
David K. Downes 3/12/03
John Hirschboeck 7/28/10
Peter M. Janaros 7/25/01
David McLaughlin 1/23/13

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