Photo by Brian C. Jones

Governor Gina M. Raimondo and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today announced that they have awarded $5.79 million in matching grants to 21 local municipalities to develop or renovate recreational facilities in their communities.

The grants will fund 27 projects across the state including new athletic fields, playgrounds, splash parks, bike paths, walking trails, shoreline access, basketball, tennis, and pickleball courts, and various site improvements.

The announcement comes with a “continued focus on supporting healthy communities and promoting outdoor recreation when the state economy begins to reopen”, according to a press release from DEM.

“As I announced this week, I am prioritizing reopening state parks, beaches, and recreation areas in the first phase of getting back to a new normal,” Governor Raimondo said in the release. “The COVID-19 crisis has shown us how critical the outdoors, exercise, sunshine, and fresh air are for people’s well-being.”

Since the inception of Earth Day in 1970, efforts to improve air and water quality, clean up contaminated lands, conserve open space, and increase recreational opportunities have greatly enhanced Rhode Islanders’ quality of life. Over the past five decades, almost 50,000 acres of land have been protected and nearly $75 million in grants has been invested for over 500 recreation projects across the state. Although the state and some local communities have temporarily closed parks, playgrounds, and sports fields to limit exposure to COVID-19, these closures have created a void where people used to safely recreate. The grants awarded today will help communities unlock recreation opportunities for all Rhode Islanders when it is safe to do so.

“The COVID-19 public health crisis has put an even sharper focus on the importance of public recreation areas and open spaces,” said DEM Director Janet Coit in the release. “We all cherish local parks, places to stroll, courts and fields on which to play sports, and inviting outdoor havens where families and friends can recreate and relax. DEM is very pleased to support communities in meeting their priorities for local outdoor recreation and to plan for the weeks and months ahead when these special places will be reopened.”

The grants, which require a community match and range from $47,000 to $400,000, are funded through 2018 Green Economy and Clean Water Bond proceeds. Categories include large grants that range from $100,000 to $400,000 each, and small grants of up to $100,000 each for projects of smaller cost. The state grants will be matched by local funding to generate over $7 million in recreational project improvements throughout Rhode Island.

Applications were evaluated and scored by the Rhode Island Recreation Resources Review Committee, consisting of government and non-profit members using the Open Project Selection Process developed under the 2019 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. This is one of the “Green Space” grants DEM offers to local communities; other grant funds support Local Open Space and Recreational Trails. 

DEM Director Coit noted that the local outdoor recreation grant program funded by green bonds is the most popular of all the grants programs at DEM in terms of requests for funding. DEM received 55 applications for this round totaling more than $13 million in requests but can fund fewer than half of the projects seeking grants.

“While we celebrate the projects that received grants, we know how disappointing it is to not get this funding,” noted Director Coit. “This process is so competitive! Once again, DEM only had the funds to meet half the need.”

Small grants were awarded to the following projects:

Burrillville: Hero Park Improvements, $80,000

New play area, shade structure, picnic tables, benches, water fountain, and shed

Central Falls: Bringing Tennis to Central Falls, $100,000

Replace existing basketball court with 2 tennis courts and install lighting

East Providence: Pierce Field Splash Park Construction, $100,000 

New splash park in Pierce Field

Little Compton: Town Landing Improvements, $80,000

Establish a safe all-weather parking area, develop a walkway from parking area to beach, plantings, restore turf, and establish a stone memorial to benefactor

New Shoreham: Andy’s Way New Boardwalk and Beach Access Improvements, $47,000 

New universally accessible beach access boardwalk and improvements to site access and parking

Newport: Abruzzi Sports Complex Basketball Court Construction, $100,000

New basketball court, bicycle storage racks, player benches, spectator bleachers, fencing around basketball court, extension of accessible walkway, and installation of a universally accessible water fountain

North Providence: Marieville Playground Construction, $100,000 

New playground with benches, fencing, landscaping, and lighting

Portsmouth: Mt. Hope Park Sea Wall Replacement, $54,000       

Replace a section of the existing sea wall

Providence:  Blackstone Park Trail Network Improvements, $100,000

Trail restoration with bank stabilization, new fencing, trail maps, interpretive signage, and trail markers

Providence: Woonasquatucket Adventure Park Improvements Phase 2, $100,000

Create safe access from the Barbara Street neighborhood including improved access from Barbara Street entrance with one accessible parking space, concrete sidewalk repairs, fencing and gates, earthwork and preparation for pathway from upper portion of bike path, site preparation for playground area, picnic pavilion space, parkour area, public art, installation of bioretention rain garden, and new bicycle storage structure building

South Kingstown: Saugatucket Park Improvements, $80,000

Reclamation and paving of walking path, replace chain link fence with decorative fence, clear invasive species along fence, and replace basketball court with combination-use outdoor court for basketball and pickleball

Westerly:  Bradford Preserve Walking Trail Construction, $70,800

Accessible walking trail, benches and landscaping

Large grants were awarded to the following projects:

Barrington: Walker Farm Recreation Shoreline Improvements, $230,745 

Expand gravel parking lot, new accessible walkway to new boat launch, improve shore access for kayakers and rowers, new floating dock for kayaks and rowers, new platform next to dock, benches, educational signs, and plantings

Burrillville: Beckwith-Bruckshaw Lodge Recreation Center Improvements, $300,000        

New playground, walking path, and parking

Charlestown: Ninigret Park New Fitness Space, $168,031

New fitness equipment and games with cement surface, new shade structure, removal and disposal of existing fencing and clearing of ice-skating rink, new solar charging stations, picnic tables, benches, and shade trees

East Greenwich: Fairfield Playground Improvements, $137,600

Installation of new universally accessible playground equipment, bench, playground safety surfacing, access walkway, new fencing

Foster: Foster Athletic Fields Construction Phase 2, $400,000      

New football/soccer field, basketball and tennis court, extension of walking path, well, and sprinkler system

Glocester: Memorial Park Improvements, $400,000

Expand and relocate playground with fitness course, covered areas, benches, new bocce court with benches and shade structures, renovated basketball courts, improvements to pedestrian connection to Putnam Pike via Sherman Lane, and new signage

Hopkinton: Crandall Field Playground Improvements, $295,861   

New playground to replace existing playground, underdrainage system, wood fiber surface, walkway to playground, bollards at walkway entrance, loam, and seed

North Kingstown: Town Beach Campus Playground Improvements, $400,000     

Renovated walkways and playground surfacing, new accessible exercise area with four accessible play structures and three accessible equipment elements, four accessible parking spaces, concrete surfacing and bike parking, two picnic tables and three benches, sensory garden, new landscaping with rain gardens, and shade trees

North Providence: Pate Athletic Field Construction, $400,000      

New multiuse athletic field for soccer/football/ lacrosse, new parking lot, new concession/restroom/equipment storage building, seating, and irrigation system

Pawtucket: Acquisition ($75,000) and Development ($400,000) of Blackstone Bikeway Along Front Street

Acquisition and development of the last segment of the Blackstone River Bikeway needed to connect from Tolman High School to Central Avenue

Providence: Gotham Greens-Atwells Fire Station Path Construction, $400,000   

Create 1,000-foot shared use path along the eastern bank of the Woonasquatucket River, benches, interpretive signs, riverbank restoration, native plantings, connection between the Woonasquatucket River Greenway and the Washington Secondary Trail extension currently under construction by RIDOT

Tiverton: Town Farm Recreation Area Improvements, $375,000

Replace playground incorporating accessible equipment and sensory elements, new fitness park, and modification of two of the four existing tennis courts into six full-time pickleball courts

Warren: Burrs Hill Park and Town Beach Playground Improvements, $400,000   

Replace and relocate existing building to develop a new activity center with accessible bathrooms, concession stand and storage area, replace existing playground equipment, add a connecting pedestrian path from the East Bay Bike Path to Burrs Hill parking lot, and install overhead lighting

Warwick: Oakland Beach Splash Park Construction and Playground & Boardwalk Improvements, $400,000

New boardwalk, splash park, playground enhancements, coastal buffer improvements, low impact bio swales, and pedestrian plaza entry improvements

The recreation grants are extremely competitive. For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit Follow us on Facebook at or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp.  Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in...