PROVIDENCE — Kent Heights Playground, off Clyde Avenue in the eponymous neighborhood it resides, will soon get long-sought after renovations following an announcement by state officials …
PROVIDENCE — Kent Heights Playground, off Clyde Avenue in the eponymous neighborhood it resides, will soon get long-sought after renovations following an announcement by state officials Wednesday, May 17.
East Providence was among the 13 municipalities to receive the highest individual amount available when Governor Dan McKee, Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) declared the awarding of $4.1 million in matching grants to develop or renovate local outdoor recreational facilities.
The DEM’s “Rec Grant” program, which require a 20 percent match by each city and town, will help fund 16 projects across the state including new athletic fields, playgrounds, a splash park, a dog park, a kayak/canoe launch, a pump track, walking trails, basketball, tennis, and pickleball courts and various site improvements.
East Providence’s earmark will be $400,000 towards what the city described as a “renovation of the Kent Heights Recreational Facility including resurfacing basketball and tennis courts, repairs to existing walkways, resurfacing/grading existing multi-use athletic field, new futsal court, accessible walking path and play equipment, landscaping benches, and bike racks.”
At the moment, Kent’s offerings are a singular dated Little League size baseball diamond, basketball and tennis courts and a what could generously referred to as a walking track.
The rec grants range from $72,000 to $400,000. They’re funded through 2021 Beach, Clean Water and Green Bond proceeds. Categories include large grants that range from $100,000 to $400,000 each and small grants of up to $100,000 each for projects of lesser cost. The state grants will be matched by local funding to generate over $5 million in recreational project improvements throughout Rhode Island.
“The COVID pandemic put into sharp focus how much public recreation areas and open spaces matter to Rhode Islanders, said DEM Director Terry Gray. "Providing people with places in their neighborhood to get outdoors, have fun, and enjoy nature is part of DEM’s core mission and is good for health. When people have fun outside, they appreciate how beautiful and important our environment is, and that helps to start developing our next generation of environmental stewards. We’re thrilled to assist communities across Rhode Island to improve and expand their recreational facilities through these grant awards.”
The City Council approved the $150,000 match required for the rec grant as part of East Providence’s Fiscal Year 21-22 Capital Budget.
The project was proposed by the administration of Mayor Bob DaSilva and presented to the council during the last budget season by City Planning and Economic Development Director Bill Fazioli.
In addition to the futsal, basketball and tennis courts, the upgrades would also include a permanent footpath, the installation of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible playground equipment and “crowning” of the grass surface for better drainage.
The process includes the hiring of a landscape architect to consult on any proposed changes, state and local permitting, a review by the city Planning Board and “community engagement.” At the time the proposal was last discussed late in 2021, Fazioli told the council the final design for the drainage portion of the project may require the body to approve additional funds for construction or it could possibly be done by parks department personnel in-house as has been the case with other similar endeavors.
Of note relatively locally as well, neighboring Barrington sought and received assistance to construct courts for the burgeoning racquet sport, “Pickleball.”
The town gained a grant for $80,000 to convert Chianese Field on Centennial Avenue into four permanent pickleball courts, with a new playing surface, fencing and permanent posts and nets.
Pickleball is played with a plastic racquet and sphere akin to a whiffle ball on a surface about the length and width of the service squares of a tennis court.