Open Space Backers Release Poll Findings, Rally for “Question #1” at Roger Williams Park (RI)

Providence, RI: Today at a campaign rally at Roger Williams Park, Open Space 2000 released results of a public opinion survey that reveals strong support for parks and open space protection among Rhode Island voters. Open Space 2000 is a coalition of supporters of Question #1, the open space bond measure on the statewide ballot November 7, 2000.

The poll of 400 registered voters, which was conducted in August by Fleming & Associates, found that:

  • 79 percent of likely voters in November’s election support open space protection in their community, and
  • 76 percent of likely voters support Question #1.

“It’s very gratifying to see the overwhelming support for our effort to preserve Rhode Island’s natural heritage,” said Governor Lincoln Almond. “These figures echo what we have seen in every corner of our state in recent weeks. Residents of rural, suburban and urban communities recognize the need to preserve our quality of life. I will continue to work with Open Space 2000 to make certain this bond issue is approved in November.”

“Time and time again Rhode Islanders have supported efforts to preserve open space and protect the environment,” said Lieutenant Governor Charles J. Fogarty. “This November we have another opportunity to ensure a lasting legacy for a future generation of Rhode Islanders. A vote for open space is a vote for the future.”

Question #1 would provide the State, towns and cities, and citizen conservation organizations with more than $6 million annually for five years to:

  • preserve land for public parks, beaches, bikepaths, boating and fishing, wildlife, and other recreational opportunities,
  • protect lakes, reservoirs, and other drinking water supplies,
  • refurbish and improve Roger Williams Park,
  • conserve working farmland, and
  • protect Rhode Island’s unique character and high quality of life.

Rhode Island is rapidly losing land for drinking water protection, parks and recreation, wildlife habitat, and farms. Since 1985, Rhode Island has lost 26,000 acres of open space to development. Roughly 75 percent of Rhode Island’s drinking water comes from surface sources, but only 25 percent of these critical watershed lands are permanently protected.

The Open Space 2000 coalition also announced today that:

  • this month alone, Rhode Island’s towns and cities submitted a total of $8 million in requests for open space grants to the Department of Environmental Management for only $2.1 million in currently available funding. These grants were requested for projects that aim to protect $24 million worth of land-an indication of the high demand for the type of open space funding that would be created by Question #1.
  • this year, seven communities-Burrillville, Cranston, Hopkinton, Johnston, North Providence, Smithfield, and Warwick-gained approval from the General Assembly to create local land trusts. Joining more than 30 existing land trusts in Rhode Island, these new initiatives send a strong sign of local support for open space protection.

“Open space protection is one of the most important issues for Rhode Island today, because we have only a few years left to do the job,” stated Bob Gilbane, president of Gilbane Properties and co-chair of the Governor’s Open Space Campaign. “If we are successful, we will have a positive impact on the quality of life in our communities far into the future.”

“Question #1 will provide a powerful new weapon in the fight to protect our communities from suburban sprawl,” said Whitney Hatch, regional director of the Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization. “By passing this referenda question, voters can take an important step to stem the tide of unplanned development that is sweeping Rhode Island.”

“Rhode Island is one of the most densely-populated states in this country, and we’re losing open space at an alarming rate. We have to move quickly if we want to preserve the wonderful environment and quality of life that makes this such a special place to live,” remarked Trudy Coxe, chief executive officer of the Preservation Society of Newport County and co?chair of the Governor’s Open Space Campaign.

Scott Wolf, executive director of Grow Smart Rhode Island, added, “For every Rhode Islander who has enjoyed an afternoon at Roger Williams Park, a sunset at Beavertail, or a sunrise on one of our South County Beaches, passing this bond issue needs to be a top priority. If we in Rhode Island are going to grow smart, we have to protect for now and forever all the special places that define our state’s soul.”

Among the special areas protected by past bond measures like Question #1 are:

  • the East Bay and Blackstone bikepaths,
  • Mount Hope Farm in Bristol,
  • Greene property in Coventry,
  • Crescent Beach in East Providence,
  • Thibadeau Farm in Lincoln,
  • Simmons Mill Pond in Little Compton,
  • Black Point in Narragansett,
  • McGinn Park in North Kingstown,
  • Oakland Forest in Portsmouth,
  • Mashapaug Pond in Providence,
  • American Fish Hatchery in Richmond,
  • Carpenter’s Farm in South Kingstown, and
  • Major additions to the Arcadia Management Area in South County, Sawponet Management Area in Tiverton, and Nicholas Farm in western Rhode Island.

Question #1 has been formally endorsed by every one of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns, and it is supported by many public officials. Other supporters include business leaders, such as the Rhode Island Hospitality and Tourism Association, Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, and Newport County Chamber of Commerce.

The Open Space 2000 coalition includes The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, Grow Smart Rhode Island, Preservation Society of Newport County, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, Environment Council of Rhode Island, and many others