There were a number of interesting concepts that came out of a tour and discussion of the Misquamicut Beach area by a global environmental group, local residents and representatives of state and federal environmental agencies last week. The group, Global Green USA, is bent on finding environmentally friendly solutions to problems that arise when man and nature come into conflict. In this case, they were here to start a consulting gig that could result in recommendations for retaining considerable use of the Misquamicut Beach area but in a way that can reduce harmful effects to the beach.
Chief among the early ideas from Monday’s tour and Tuesday’s public discussion on the future of the area was the concept of turning more attention to Winnapaug Pond on the other side of Atlantic Avenue. Currently there is little to no public access to the pond, but members of the group felt it would make an ideal site for eco-tourism, including kayaking, paddleboarding and, we would have to imagine, walking tours that explain the ecology of the pond and the wetlands around it. A bike path circling the pond was another idea, and encouraging more people to get out of their cars and walking or onto bikes was also mentioned. Some local observers would find it interesting to learn that a trolley between the beach and downtown was suggested, an idea tried and criticized a few years ago and not revived since.
Regarding use of the pond, it was interesting to hear so much about it from those new to Misquamicut.
“From our perspective we think that the pond is your asset. It is spectacularly beautiful and it has so much potential,” said Jessica Millman, of Global Green USA. Millman and her colleagues clearly saw Misquamicut with a different set of eyes than we are accustomed to. Their early recommendations include developing the Misquamicut area as a destination for those who consider a day at the shore as an opportunity for exploration, and activity beyond a dip in the water. “We know they (tourists) are not really taking advantage of all that Misquamicut has to offer,” Millman said.
We would encourage this direction for Misquamicut, consistent with our previous calls for more opportunities for access to the water and safe bicycling throughout the region. Learning that Global Green USA has been contacted by an anonymous donor who would put $50,000 toward a bike path in the area was a pleasant surprise and one that should be considered a challenge to the town and state for matching funds or in-kind labor and materials.
Endorsing these concepts, some of which have been suggested locally before, does not exclude all of Misquamicut’s existing activities. Misquamicut can remain an economic engine while we show more respect for the natural resources that draw us there.