When thousands of sailors arrive at Sail Newport over the spring and summer months, they will see the new 8,500 square foot building near completion after five years in the making. Today Sail Newport celebrated the milestone of placing the highest point on the new Marine Education and Recreation Center in Fort Adams State Park.
The Behan Brothers crew lift the cupola to the top point of the new Sail Newport building.

At the “Topping-Off Ceremony” Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, state and city officials, and members and supporters of Sail Newport watched as the Behan Brothers construction crew lifted the cupola to the highest point of the educational building.

“This is a public/private partnership between the State and Fort Adams from one end of the park to the other.  We’re working together with our non-profit partners to improve the park,” Paiva Weed says, and adds that the focus is on education for the public.
Scheduled to open in August, sailors of all ages, guests, and community partners will use the public sailing center.
In addition to more programs for more youth and adults, the overall experience for visiting sailors and students will improve.  The new center will house Sail Newport’s offices, meeting space for up to 200 people, outdoor classroom space with protection from the sun and weather, public restrooms, and changing rooms and showers.
A $10 million “Campaign for Blue Space” launched last year by Sail Newport has raised significant funding for building costs and a permanently restricted endowment for the expansion of sailing and marine education programs for the public.
“We’re a little more than halfway there,” says Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport.  Read reports that the non-profit organization has received $6.3 million in donations and pledges for the facility to date.
He notes, however, that the fundraising continues, “We are reaching out to the community for help funding the new educational programs as well.”  Read says that Sail Newport has $3.7 million left to raise to reach the Campaign for Blue Space overall fundraising goal.
The program expansion plans at Sail Newport are also well under way. Read says the expense of sailing and access to boats are two obstacles that have made sailing inaccessible to most in the community. The Campaign for Blue Space, he says, “is committed to removing those barriers to open the sport to those who don’t usually have the opportunity.”
 
New Sailing Program for Pell Elementary School Fourth-Graders
 
One of the first new programs will be a free learn-to-sail program for The Newport Public School System.  The sailing program with the Claiborne Pell Elementary School is scheduled to start in September of this year.
Paiva Weed says the “innovative partnership between Sail Newport and the Pell School will have educational sailing linked with the curriculum including geography, math skills and more. “
Also, Paiva Weed adds,  “So many of the kids, while they call Newport their home, never have the opportunity to step foot on a sailboat and to learn about sailing which is such a vital part of our economy.”
Read adds, “Every fourth-grader in Newport Public Schools will have the opportunity to learn to sail. We live on an island, and a majority of kids don’t get the chance to see their city from the water and explore the great natural resource of Narragansett Bay,” He adds.
Read, Newport Superintendent of Schools Colleen Burns Jermain, Sail Newport Program Director Kim Hapgood, and Donna Kelly, a Pell teacher who chairs the Education Committee as a board member of Sail Newport, spearhead the new Pell School Sailing Program.
Jermain says, “We are very fortunate to live in a community with such great partners that are here every day for our children and families. It takes all of us, ‘One Newport’ to make programs like this become a reality. This along with our initiative of providing swimming lessons for all of our grade two students will help ensure that every child in Newport will be able to take full advantage of what our City-by-the-Sea has to offer.”

Nearly 200 Pell School fourth-graders will participate in the program. Sail Newport will use its fourteen J/22 keelboats for the program’s on-the-water learning.

Kelly says, “To be able to offer our students an opportunity to step outside their traditional classroom setting for experiential learning on a boat on Narragansett Bay, and combine that with Next Generation Science Standards is an extraordinary opportunity for our students,” she adds.
Students to Learn Sailing Fundamentals and Environmental Topics
 
Hapgood reports that during the 16-week program, students will learn sailing fundamentals, problem-solving and sportsmanship.  Sail Newport will integrate such topics as respect for the ocean and the shore side environment, the Bay watershed, Earth systems, climate change and more.
The on-the-water portion, Hapgood adds, “will provide hands-on practical application of skills for the students.”
Kelly says, “This learning experience is impressive and a testimony to the future of how we will educate our students. It’s purposeful, valuable on many levels and the sailing program will develop skills such as teamwork, communication, and perseverance.  The students will treasure this for the rest of their lives,” she adds.
Logistics for transporting and scheduling the students will model the success of the second-grade learn-to-swim program also spearheaded by Superintendent Jermain.  The swimming program is taking place now and will continue for second graders in the future.
Educators Donna Kelly (l) and Superintendent Colleen Burns Jermain join about 100 other people to sign the cupula before it was lifted to the top of the new building today.

Jermain adds, “Newport is the sailing capital of the world and it only seems right that our students get to know sailing for themselves first-hand. Bravo to Sail Newport, Brad Read and the team for becoming full partners with the Newport public schools,” she adds.

A family information session will be held at the Pell School in early April with a date to be determined and announced by the school.
Sail Newport has had other success with public school programs such as the Thompson Middle School sailing program which ran in an after-school format.
Sail Newport also hosts the three Aquidneck Island public high school sailing teams.  Portsmouth High School, Middletown High School and Rogers High School all use the Sail Newport facilities for training and competition.
In addition, Sail Newport runs a sailing program free for the East Bay Met. That high school program is operated in the spring and fall months during school hours.
Community Outreach to Expand to other Non-profit Groups
 
With the new facility and expanded educational funding, Sail Newport will also be able to reach out to more community youth.  Former programs offered for free or little cost has included those provided for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, Star Kids, Boys and Girls Clubs and other non-profit organizations and Sail Newport expects to grow that list with its Campaign for Blue Space success.

Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and serves on the Board of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and Lucy's Hearth. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.