Dozens of Middletown residents turned out at Monday night's Middletown Town Council meeting to speak out or listen to the proposal to replace the Third Beach boat ramp.
The council ultimately voted to order further study of the proposal. Here's an overview of what some residents had to say:
Opponents or Concerns
“We have no money to fund this. None,” Indian Avenue resident Carol Cummings told the council and Brown. She agreed the aging boat ramp is in need of replacement, but called the proposed 200-foot pier with a wheelchair accessible walkway and wastewater dump station “inappropriate” for Third Beach due to its rural and natural state.
Easton's Point Association President Sarah Gill was concerned about an increased flow of boat launch traffic, leading to more boats idling and polluting the water. Gill also did not like the idea of a dump station holding tank in the parking lot.
“How large will this tank be in the parking lot? That’s really attractive,” Gill told the council.
She also discouraged the town from trying to cater to a small population of boaters over the needs of families and local beach visitors.
Others who spoke questioned whether Middletown would be at the mercy of strict Department of Environmental Managed (DEM) and other Rhode Island state guidelines for running the Third Beach ramp and parking lot, should the town accept the state's 75 percent match federal grant.
They worried about increased power boat traffic disrupting the natural state of Third Beach, which attracts kayakers, mainly family sunbathers and swimmers, stand-up paddleboarders and wind-powered vessels.
Others such as boating enthusiasts urged the town to consider accepting the grant.
Middletown resident Jason Goldfarb, an avid sailor and sport fisherman with a 27-foot center console powerboat, after the meeting described how he travels up and down the east coast as far south as Florida and has no trouble launching his motorized boat everywhere else.
“Ironically, the only place I can’t launch my boat is a half-mile from my own house. It’s the worst boat ramp I’ve ever seen,” Goldfarb said.
A certified marine sanitation specialist, Goldfarb also defended the proposal to install a dump station. "Otherwise, if they can't dump it at the ramp, where do you think they'll dump it?" he asked the council.
Middletown boater Mitch Thurman, now in his 40s, said he grew up boating and water skiing at Third Beach and has watched the existing boat ramp worsen over the years to the point where it's barely useful.
"I’ve seen people actually dunk their boats into the water and have to get pulled out," Thurman said.
Beach Commission Weighs In
In speaking to residents' concerns, Beach Commission member Bill Seiple informed the council that the commission "made sure we questioned DEM about strings attached and were told that there would be none, because we don't charge to use the ramp, only to park."
Beach Commission Chairman Rian Wilkinson said he didn't anticipate so much opposition to the proposal when the Beach Commission first learned of the grant and proposed it to the council last year, especially after years of talks that the ramp needed replacing.
A former manager at Second Beach and member of the Conservation Commission, Wilkinson assured the council and opponents that the Beach Commission has always worked to help preserve the natural state at Third Beach and they would continue to do so.
Parking spaces at the Third Beach lot for boat launches would not be expanded, he noted, and would remain at 16 spots for towed trailers.
A great portion of the proposed 200-foot pier would mostly traverse the beach before heading into the water and would provide handicapped access from the lot to both the beach and to the boat launch ramp, Wilkinson also noted.
"We're not going to run crazy down there on Third Beach. That’s a misperception," Wilkinson said.