A new public pier in Providence is helping to bring visitors back to Fields Point. And it already has some devoted fans.
Just south of a sewage treatment plant and the industrial Port of Providence, down the road from the Johnson & Wales Harborside campus is a sturdy wooden pier. Looking out over Narragansett Bay, you can see all the way to Prudence Island. Standing at the end of the pier, 16-year-old Jose takes in the view.
“I live like two streets past the gasoline station, the Shell’s right there? Yeah. I usually come here with my friends all the time, just to hang out,” he says. Jose goes to high school in Cranston. He and a friend found the pier while biking around town one morning.
“We woke up at like 6 in the morning. We were just bored and we were like, ‘Hey let’s go, let’s go explore,’” he explains. “We came, we see Save The Bay. And then we’re here. It was unlocked. We went down. And there was more waves, so it felt weird when we were walking on that concrete float right there. It felt like I was, like, moving side-to-side. It was hard to walk.”
Jose says he was surprised to find this spot, but until the early 20th century, Fields Point was a recreational hotspot in Providence. City residents swam at Kerwin’s Beach, and chowed down on baked clams at communal tables in the state’s first dinner hall pavilion.
But the city built its sewage treatment plant at Fields Point in 1901, followed by ship-building docks and a landfill, driving visitors away. Since opening its headquarters on the site in 2005, environmental group Save The Bay has been working to bring people back to Fields Point.The shoreline of Save The Bay’s headquarters has been open to the public for years, and it’s already a popular spot for fishing, dog-walking and running. Executive Director Jonathan Stone says, adding a public dock is something the group has been working on for five years.
“I think you get the feel by walking down to the end of the dock you get a feel for why a dock is pretty neat, because you’re out over the water as opposed to looking at the water from the shore,” Stone says. “You’ll see lots of things in the water that you wouldn’t necessarily see on the shore.”The wheelchair accessible dock and kayak launch are part of Save The Bay’s on-going effort to increase public access to Narragansett Bay. Ever since he stumbled upon the spot, high school student Jose has been helping spread the word.
“After we found out about this place, yeah we had to tell everybody about it,” he said. “We were just like, ‘Yo, we found this nice place. It’s a nice pier. We can walk on it, and the water’s right there – we can see everything. It’s a nice chill spot.’”
For the moment, Jose and his friends have this slice of the Bay to themselves.