220113ind nulman

Boulders now block the entrance to Rose Nulman Park in Narragansett after the park was closed to the public due to erosion concerns.

NARRAGANSETT, R.I — The family that owns Rose Nulman Park has made headway in efforts to get funding it says is necessary to repair erosion at the park, which was open to the public for years before closing abruptly last month.

The private Rose Nulman Foundation said in an online statement it’s exploring conservation easements for the 4.5-acre park, which is next to the Point Judith Lighthouse and offers sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s also exploring partnerships with land trusts to try to obtain local, state or federal funding for the work, which the foundation has estimated would cost millions of dollars.  

“This is a complex process that takes time, so we will need the public’s support and patience while we close until the park is safe,” the foundation said.

The park, popular with visitors, fishermen and surfers, closed its parking area just before the holidays. However, a coastal access path that the foundation maintains off Ocean Road lets visitors walk to and from the shore.

Among those the foundation said it has provided help moving forward are Save the Bay, the state Coastal Resources Management Council, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and Town Council president pro tem Susan Cicilline Buonanno.

“(Buonanno) has engaged with us and we are so grateful for her tangible support,” the statement said. “She has contacted senators on our behalf, which has produced meetings to learn about federal funding for the park. We hope that others will follow her lead.”

Carol Nulman, a managing partner with the foundation, said several weeks before the closure that she wants to apply public pressure on officials to act.

Narragansett Town Council President Jesse Pugh, responding to the concerns, said he met three times with Nulman, and that Town Manager James Tierney and staff attended as well. Congressional offices and state legislators also are aware of the issue, Pugh said.

The chief question for Pugh, he said, is whether public funds should be spent on improving private property.

“I believe most people, generally, would say no,” Pugh said. “However, Rose Nulman Park, though privately owned could be considered quasi-public as the foundation has allowed for public access all these years. For me, that makes the discussion for public funding a discussion worth having and eventually pursuing should all requirements be met by the foundation.”

Pugh also said he has two “must-haves” for the foundation to be considered for public funding.

The first is a written agreement creating a permanent easement on the property, preventing future development.

“This would transfer to any new property owner should the property be sold,” he said.

Pugh also said the park needs a “professional evaluation, assessment of the problem, a plan of action, and a cost estimate. This needs to be done and documentation would need to be provided.”

The cost of such “legwork” Pugh said he’d like to see could itself be steep, and neither the town nor the Nulman Foundation have indicated a willingness to foot the bill.

Municipalities are barred from using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money on private land. The town also has no details on how much federal infrastructure bill funding it would receive, or even if it would get money directly, Pugh said.  

The property’s use as a scenic overlook dates back to 1993, when Saul Nulman purchased the property.

The previous owners were forced to close a restaurant at the site, the Lighthouse Inn, when its septic system failed and the state wouldn’t approve a new one.

After buying the land, Saul Nulman allowed the public to park there and use the grounds to set up lawn chairs and picnic blankets. He said at the time he wanted the area open for public access and wanted to “give back” to the community.

Nulman died in 2007, and his heirs, according to court documents, were split over the disposition of the property, which he had named Rose Nulman Park in memory of his mother. A 2008 settlement agreement among some members of the Nulman family, including Carol Nulman and Joel Nulman, current trustees of the foundation, put in a penalty if public access were curtailed.

For now, the park is closed and the stalemate continues while talks proceed.

“We recognize the generosity and foresight that Saul Nulman had and appreciate what the family has done to keep access open,” Pugh said. “We’re hopeful that the needed repairs can be completed.”

The Nulman family referred to a proclamation it received from the town in September.

“We’d love to continue the relationship that they initiated in order to work together to re-open the park,” the foundation said.

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