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The town of South Kingstown’s Economic Development Committee will discuss its recommendations for the future of Saugatucket Park in Wakefield later this month.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The January calendar is filling up with meetings about the next town manager of South Kingstown and the future of Saugatucket Park, and officials are seeking public input.

The town is in the process of searching for a permanent manager to replace Rob Zarnetske, who departed last June. Theresa Murphy, parks and leisure services director, has filled in in an interim role since then.

MRI Inc., the consultant conducting the recruitment for South Kingstown’s next manager, will hold outreach meetings to hear from members of the community who want to share their thoughts on the characteristics and traits they think are important in the next town manager. Meetings will be held in person and masks are required.

The first will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. on Jan. 10 at Town Hall, 180 High St. The second will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 11 at the Senior Center, on St. Dominic Road.

MRI has posted a recruiting advertisement on its website, www.MRIgov.com.

MRI also set up an e-mail address for any interested person in the community who wants to share their thoughts anonymously on the hiring of the manager: SKTownManager@mrigov.com. The firm also prepared and posted a community profile on its website.

While the town searches for its next manager, officials also are gearing up for talks about Saugatucket Park.

The Economic Development Committee has requested a joint work-session with the Town Council and Recreation Commission on Jan. 24 to report on the EDC’s findings and conclusions drawn from a Sept. 21 public forum at the Contemporary Theater Company, and to discuss next steps based on those findings and conclusions.

Next steps, according to Senior Planner Brian Wagner, are anticipated to include planning and design work and/or construction of infrastructure improvements that will require funding from the council to match potential grants.

Several years ago, the EDC worked with the University of Rhode Island’s landscape architecture department to develop a “vision” to present to the Town Council, EDC Chairman Larry Fish said.

Parts of the plan include efforts to improve the Saugatucket Park and river as a destination, and to improve water quality and the park’s visibility from downtown, to make the connection between the two stronger.

Local landscape architect Randy Collins, who is donating his services to the cause, said that in 2020 the town’s recreation committee received a grant to improve the park – a $100,000 award.

The work would rebuild the walkway, repair a chain link fence at the top of the riverbank, clear invasive plants along the fence line and replace the nearby basketball court with a new court, and also provide space for pickleball.

The Planning Board also is interested in attending the discussion, Planning Director James Rabbitt said.

“I think it will be a good discussion about what role the Saugatucket River Park plays in the long-term development of the community as well as its role in economic development associated with downtown,” Rabbitt said.    

The three boards and the Town Council will meet for one hour at 6 p.m. on Jan. 24 at Town Hall to have the discussion.

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