Friends of the waterfront

Attached is a letter that Friends of the Waterfront (FOW) sent to be part of the record for the Waites Wharf Redevelopment Plan’s demo permit. The Board of Directors for Friends of the Waterfront has given us permission to share it with our readers.

 ~ FOW Mission Statement~

  • To protect public access to the water
  • To preserve historical uses, rights-of-way and waterfront views
  • To help foster the development of Newport,RI’s shoreline and harbor front areas in ways that maximize public access            

For nearly 40 years, Friends of the Waterfront (FOW), the Newport based nonprofit, has focused on preserving the city’s unique historic urban waterfront. One of FOW’s decades-long dreams has been a unified, contiguous Newport Harbor Walk from the Van Zandt Pier in the north to King Park in the south. This vision of an ideal is what keeps our all-volunteer, grass roots organization, whose membership has been in the thousands in the past, functioning as an alert observer of all development along the city’s urban historic maritime shoreline. We are the watchdog of the waterfront. FOW is not anti-development but cognizant of the need to preserve Newport’s historic nature.  

FOW’s origin in the 1980s was at a time when condo development and time shares threatened to turn public access to private use and to block nearly all access to the waterfront all over the city. These rights-of-way 

(ROW) go back to Newport’s earliest Colonial days and because of organizations like FOW they continue to endure as public access points. Thanks to funding by FOW these Newport ROWs were originally documented, deeded, and publicized. These RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) designated public rights-of-ways are of great value to the city, the state and the nation and must continue to be protected.

Today, in 2021 it is hotel development that threatens our public access and our waterfront views along the shore. A recent public hearing regarding the demolition application for Waite’s Wharf ended in confusion. Waite’s Wharf  is within a historic residential district. The current Waites Wharf Redevelopment Plan is NOT consistent with the Newport Comp Plan- Plan’s Vision Statement (pp. 1-6) valuing existing assets while promoting quality growth: “The City of Newport is a vibrant, forward-looking and welcoming community built upon a strong sense of place and cultural heritage. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the city for its rich history, natural beauty, boating traditions, walkability, enticing downtown, community diversity, and overall quality of life. We are committed to charting a course for our future that embraces and encourages innovative growth and development, taking an active role in the stewardship of our architectural and natural resources, and an enhanced quality of life, all while we maintain our unique historic and cultural assets that are the foundation of our character.”

The developer’s proposal includes enormous issues that Newport’s Planning and Zoning Boards need to work out. FOW’s position is that no matter what happens at Waite’s Wharf, the public access that exists there now must remain, whether the property is being torn down or built up. Waite’s Wharf contains a deeded, unrestricted waterfront walkway from the Coddington Condos to West Extension Street to the CRMC waterfront pier. The city, FOW and concerned citizens must vehemently defend this acreage and be sure that any plan going forward does not compromise or change what is rightfully ours already.  

Friends of the Waterfront Board of Directors

PO Box 932

Newport, RI 02840