Editorial: Vote YES on 6

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On Nov. 8, Rhode Islanders have the opportunity to expand open land and recreation space in the state, clean up blighted areas, and invest in the health of Narragansett Bay, all while helping support the state’s economy.

Question 6 on the Rhode Island ballot — the Green Economy Bond — asks residents to borrow $35 million to invest in the state’s environmental health. The bond includes $4 million for development and maintenance of historic parks, $10 million to expand and maintain the statewide network of bike paths — of which the East Bay Bike Path is a part — $4 million for the state to acquire and protect open space, $5 million to clean up some of the estimated 12,000 brownfield sites in Rhode Island, and $3 million to improve stormwater drainage throughout the state, helping prevent polluted runoff from harming the bay. The remaining $9 million would be dedicated to helping municipalities invest in their own open space and recreational projects, matching the communities’ own investments, which will double the impact of the funds — in many cases, tripling the impact with matching federal funds.

The benefits of investing in parks and open space should be obvious to most voters. Limiting overdevelopment and increasing recreational opportunities enhances all Rhode Islanders’ quality of life and increases tourism opportunities, supporting the state economy. And the popularity of the East Bay Bike Path both for recreation and practical transportation is evidence enough the network should continue to expand, with the goal of eventually connecting the entire state.

Perhaps the most critical part of the bond is the investment in the continued protection of Narragansett Bay, a recreational and economic engine that touches virtually everyone in Rhode Island. Stormwater runoff carries pollutants like oil, nitrates and sewage into streams and rivers, which eventually funnel into the bay, threatening the marine life that fuels the state’s fishing industry and forcing the closing of beaches that support the state’s massive tourism industry. In Bristol alone, for example, the closing of the Town Beach was routine every time it rained until investment from a previous bond allowed improved drainage and the construction of green swales to absorb the water and filter out toxins. This summer, Bristol Town Beach had to close to swimmers just once.

Beyond the obvious environmental benefits of Question 6, the bond will also be an economic engine for the state. Tourism is the number 2 industry in Rhode Island due in large part to the beaches and parks that attract visitors from far and wide. VisitRhodeIsland.com estimates tourism-related sales approach $6 billion a year in the state, making it a critical industry that must be protected. 

The Green Economy Bond is an important investment in the state’s economy and quality of life. Rhode Islanders have overwhelmingly supported similar open space and environmental bonds in the past, approving them by a more than two-thirds majority. 

This year should be no different. Vote YES on Question 6.

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