A plan to convert the southernmost 17 acres of Gould Island from a wildlife sanctuary to public recreation was unanimously approved by the town council at a meeting Monday night.
The resolution was presented by David Sommers, Chairman of the Gould Island Commission. Today, the 53-acre island on the Eastern Passage is the smallest of the three islands, including Jamestown, Dutch and Conanchute, and is divided between state and federal governments. The southernmost 39 acres are operated by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management as a migratory bird sanctuary, while the northern 14 acres are owned by the US Navy for national defense.
However, under the resolution, a portion of the state would be divided into 17 acres for public recreation, leaving 22 acres as a wildlife sanctuary. According to Somers, this is how the federal government originally annexed these pieces of land, which he did in 1975 and 1989 respectively.
The reason for this proposed land division is that Gould is currently closed from April to August to allow for migratory bird breeding. Few people would be interested in visiting the island outside of that time frame, Somers said. will work simultaneously.
The resolution calls for the state to work with towns to ensure a plan to provide “removal of restrictions on wildlife sanctuary deeds.” remediation of physical hazards to allow public access; provision of drinking water and sanitation; Development of transport infrastructure to enable public access. Construction of a fence or other separation to the north from a wildlife sanctuary. Providing transportation and emergency services. ”
The resolution also authorizes town administrators to work with states to develop plans “for the purpose of securing federal funding” and present them to federal delegations.
A second resolution was also passed by the council to promote publicly accessible Gould Island. That resolution called on other Narragansett Bay communities to prepare plans for public recreation on Gould Island at the request of a federal delegation to Jamestown in sending a resolution to the state. requesting to participate in
The plan to open Gould to the public was spearheaded by a federally funded island cleanup that began in 2018. Cleanup is authorized through the Defense Environmental Restoration Program for Old-Use Defense Sites, a congressional initiative to identify toxic waste and debris. , construction hazards, and unexploded ordnance from non-functioning military bases.
When the cleanup began, the state only identified Gould as a wildlife sanctuary, so the scope of the project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers didn’t include steps to make it safer for people. did. Since then, however, the state has said it wants to open the island to visitors and has called on the federal government to expand the extent of decontamination.