As Aquidneck Island celebrates Earth Day, the City of Newport, working in partnership with a number of community stakeholders, today announced that it has been awarded a $180,000 grant to help protect and restore one of Aquidneck Island’s most threatened bodies of water.
The grant, which was submitted in partnership with the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) through its Island Waters Program, promises to revitalize the eastern shoreline of Almy Pond by reclaiming natural habitat and removing roughly 25,500 sq. ft. of asphalt pavement and associated infrastructure along Spouting Rock Drive.
Once complete, the City of Newport says in a press release that it’s hoped that the area will function as both a natural barrier for the pond and serve as an important habitat for native species to thrive.
Considered to be the most impaired body of water on the island, Almy Pond occupies a critical point along Newport’s southern shoreline, serving as both a coastal barrier for inland neighborhoods as well as an important freshwater habitat for local and migratory fauna.
However, over the last century, the pond has suffered from the negative effects of surrounding development, which were increased by an attempted illegal residential subdivision on its eastern shoreline in the 1990s.
For roughly 30 years, a coalition of organizations, including the City’s Tree & Open Space Commission, Clean Ocean Access, and the Aquidneck Land Trust, have worked to remove the impeding infrastructure. The grant will effectively take the project to completion.
“This is a big win for Newport and our coastline,”said Patricia Reynolds, the City’s Planning and Economic Development Director in a statement. ”By removing this unnecessary and unused infrastructure, we’re expecting to be able to restore the surrounding meadow and marsh, improve drainage and water quality in the pond, and provide a more effective buffer against the stronger and more frequent storms that are anticipated as a result of climate change.”
Added Allison McNally, Program Manager for the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission in a statement, “Our coastal and drinking waters are key to our quality of life and tourism economy and this project at Spouting Rock Drive will be critical in improving the health of the Coastal Aquidneck Watershed.”
Work to reclaim the area will be a joint effort by the City’s Public Services, Utilities, and Planning Departments.
Once complete, the work will result in the reclamation of almost two acres of impervious surface that currently discharges directly into Almy Pond, and the restoration of the sensitive ecosystem along the shoreline.
By improving this natural buffer, the City is relying on hydrology and plant life to help revitalize the pond, and hopefully reduce the number of closures at two neighboring beaches, including Bailey’s Beach East, also known as Reject’s Beach.
Due to the sensitive nature of the pond, the City of Newport says that public access will be limited in and around the restoration area upon the project’s completion, with work expected to get underway in the coming weeks.