WESTERLY — Anglers, kayakers and other nature enthusiasts now have an additional way to reach the Pawcatuck River.
The access point is across the road from the Gingerella Sports Complex on White Rock Road. An 800-foot pathway leading down to the spot on the river was recently spruced up with a new layer of crushed stone, making for an easier walk to and from the road. People planning to use the new public access point can park at the Gingerella complex, officials said.
The project was spearheaded by the Conservation Commission.
"There's talk of Westerly being the gateway for the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed but there's very little access in Westerly," said Joseph MacAndrew, Conservation Commission chairman, during a tour of the new access area this week.
In a presentation to the Town Council in March, MacAndrew presented the commission's idea for making the town-owned path a formal town access point. Members of the Town Council liked what they heard and agreed by consensus to let the commission proceed.
The commission, using $9,000 from its budget for rights of way and access paths, hired A&J Landscaping LLC of North Stonington to put down the crushed stone and to grade the path. A sign marking the spot has also been erected.
"We're trying to make it a nice resource for the town. We're incredibly lucky that we had the money to do this," MacAndrew said.
The new access point pairs nicely with a state Department of Environmental Management public access point farther up the river at the Potter Hill Landing, MacAndrew said.
"You can put in at Potter Hill and get out here," he said.
Getting out of the river at the new White Rock Road access point, which is adjacent to a Route 78 overpass, might be appealing to kayakers and canoeists who would rather not go under the Stillman Avenue Bridge, where MacAndrew said debris in the water can be challenging.
Unfortunately, MacAndrew said, the new access point has a history of being used as an illegal dumping grounds. On Wednesday, just one week after it had been cleaned out, four discarded tires and a small pile of asphalt were piled near the river at the end of the path. Dead flounder and the rib cages of deer carcasses were strewn about. MacAndrew said he planned to ask the Westerly Police Department to include the area as part of its patrols.
The Wood-Pawcatuck watershed was designated as one of the nation's Wild and Scenic river systems earlier this year. MacAndrew is a member of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association's board of directors.