City to make pitch for Warwick Light

GSA to make selection for free transfer of property

Posted 6/1/23

Frank Picozzi recalls fishing on the rocks below the Warwick Neck Lighthouse as a boy.

Now, as mayor, he’s looking to restore the access the public once enjoyed to the property with its …

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City to make pitch for Warwick Light

GSA to make selection for free transfer of property


Frank Picozzi recalls fishing on the rocks below the Warwick Neck Lighthouse as a boy.

Now, as mayor, he’s looking to restore the access the public once enjoyed to the property with its expansive view of Narragansett Bay. 

 “It’s beautiful there,” he said. “I’d like that to be in the city’s control.” 

The United States General Services Administration recently issued a Notice of Availability for six lighthouses, one of which is the Warwick Neck Lighthouse, with the intention of transferring control of the property to local entities at no cost. The application process is open to state and city governments, nonprofits and community development groups to receive the lighthouse and the .8 acres it sits on for free. According to a GSA press release, the National Park Service will send an application to all entities that submit a letter of interest, and once they review all of the applications, they may recommend one applicant to acquire the lighthouse. Ultimately, the GSA will legally transfer the property to its new owner.

Standing 51 feet tall, the Warwick Neck Lighthouse has been a fixture of the community since it was built in 1827. Picozzi said that with its view of the Bay and its shoreline access, it is “important that the public has access to it” and that it doesn’t become “exclusive or closed off.” “We can maintain it,” Picozzi added. “We should keep it in the city, so we can control its destiny instead of private organizations.” 

The deadline for applications is July 14, but Picozzi said that the city intends to place their proposal “as soon as possible.” He added that their current focus is to secure the lighthouse and then work to figure out how to manage it.

 Bill Facente, program coordinator of community development, said that it would be a “win for the city and state” if the city acquired this “icon of Warwick.” He said that public shoreline is hard to come by, so he views this location as the perfect site for passive recreation. If the shore is not too rocky, he said it could even be a great place to put a dock for fishing. At the moment, Facente said that the city’s main goal is to “preserve this historic asset, coastal asset, and provide coastal access” to the public. The specific details and logistics of managing public access will come later.

Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur called proposals for the city to own the lighthouse interesting, yet fraught with questions.

“If you get it, how you going to maintain it?” he asked. He points out that the government “wants to give it away because they don’t want to spend the money.” In addition to maintenance, he is concerned over whether there is sufficient parking and what that would mean to traffic on Warwick Neck Avenue. Unlike Rocky Point Park that allows for a flow of traffic, there is only one way to and from the lighthouse.

Before signing on to city ownership of the property, he said he would like to hear from Save the Bay, Coastal Resources Management Council and nonprofits. “I’m all in favor of preserving this historic and architectural beauty…but who’s going to maintain and control it?”

A longtime resident of the Neck, Ann Gooding likewise raised questions when asked what she thought about the lighthouse. She thought that the improvement association should apply for acquisition of the light, “but they should have a master plan for its use and mitigation impact and a significant infusion of funds and an executive deirector to run it.” She feels its best use is educational, suggesting that Save the Bay or a veterans group might be best suited as caretakers. She thought there might be an opportunity for co-management with Rocky Point.

 This would not be the first lighthouse that the city of Warwick owns. The city acquired the Conimicut Lighthouse in 2004 and is in charge of maintaining and preserving the structure. According to Picozzi, this lighthouse requires a “considerable amount of work,” in part because it is surrounded by water. 

Tom Kravitz, the city planning director, said that the city just closed the request for qualification process to find a firm to repair and stabilize the Conimicut Lighthouse, using funds from a recently awarded a $775,000 earmark grant won by former Congressman James Langevin . Kravitz thinks that the Warwick Neck Lighthouse will be easier for the city to maintain and manage because it is land based.

The city is not the only entity looking into acquiring the lighthouse. The Warwick Neck Improvement Association sent a letter of interest to the GSA for the lighthouse.

 “The possibility of acquiring the (Warwick Neck) lighthouse is, without exaggeration, a potentially remarkable opportunity for the WNIA to expand the work we do to promote the welfare of the Warwick Neck community and for the benefit of all Warwick residents,” said Jonathan Knight, president of the organization. Like the city, the WNIA is still in the early stages of their plans for the lighthouse. Knight added that “opening the property to the public beyond what is now done for Easter Sunday service will certainly be a key consideration for us.”

Some Warwick Neck residents are curious and hesitant about how the lighthouse’s change of ownership will affect their neighborhood. Brian Mazmanian can see the Warwick Neck Lighthouse from his front yard. He said that he likes having a “piece of maritime that’s alive” so close to him, and he enjoyed it when a family lived there and maintained the lighthouse. He’s a little apprehensive about what public access would look like and believes that it should be controlled. “It couldn’t just be you open the Rhode Island tourism book and it says there’s a lighthouse that’s open to the public,” he said.

 According to Mazimanian, the street already has very fast drivers, so he is worried about safety if traffic were to increase significantly. “There would have to be some real careful thinking,” Mazmanian added. “There would have to be some regulation of public access, so it wouldn’t just be a free-for-all.”

With reports from John Howell

lighthouse, pitch, light


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