The Board of Directors of the Friends of the Waterfront (FOW), the Newport-based “watchdog of the waterfront,” elected Lynda Stevenson of Newport as its new President, succeeding long-serving FOW President Johanna Vietry, who stepped down at the end of the year. Stevenson , a RI native, has been a Newport resident for over 25 years and involved in numerous civic organizations. She has served on the Board of FOW since 2019. Prior to moving to Newport, she worked in New York City as Vice President for British Khaki, a clothing manufacturer.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors and all of our members, I want to thank Johanna Vietry for her long service to FOW and the citizens of Newport. FOW had many successes under your leadership. Moreover, we will never know the many usurpations that have been avoided because others knew that Friends of the Waterfront was watching.” Stevenson continued “Friends of the Waterfront was created forty years ago by Mary Ferrazzoli and Newporters who were concerned about the rapid changes on the waterfront. Since then, FOW has pursued a two-pronged strategy: protect existing public access on historic rights-of-way, and increase public access between those rights-of-way by creating a Harbor Walk alongside the waterfront.”
FOW’s vision for the Newport Harbor Walk is a continuous waterfront path from The Point to King Park, and the improvement of the Harbor Walk has been a goal of the City of Newport’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan for decades. FOW’s operating philosophy is that whenever a developer seeks relief for a harborside project, city officials, boards, and commissions must always act to improve public access and complete the Harbor Walk. Several proposals with important public access implications are pending, including the latest proposal for Waites Wharf and the proposal to change The Wellington complex from 52 suites into a 151 room hotel. FOW also petitioned the City Council to examine encroachments on a right-of-way on Scott’s Wharf. There are many other locations on the waterfront where public access rights established by deeds, settlements, or court cases must be closely monitored and enforced.
Stevenson concluded: “After 40 years, there has been incremental progress on completing a continuous waterfront Harbor Walk, but major gaps remain. The public is forced away from Newport Harbor and onto the often crowded sidewalks of Thames Street and America’s Cup Avenue. We need to do better.”
Stevenson also announced that FOW will be updating and relaunching its website by May 1, and will conduct its 2023 annual membership drive starting on June 1. In the interim, all 2022 memberships will remain active thru June and any membership applications submitted in calendar year 2023 will grant membership through June 2024. Additionally, FOW will once again sponsor the popular King Park summer concert series starting in June. In addition to electing Lynda Stevenson, the other FOW officers that were elected or re-elected are Vice President Tom Gibson, Treasurer Cheryl McLarney, and Secretary Hank Kniskern.