NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Local and state leaders gathered in Quonset Sept. 14 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at two new recreational fields, spanning 22 acres and already set up for lacrosse matches.
The million-dollar project was made possible through a $400,000 Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management grant, with the town and Quonset Development Corp. each contributing approximately $200,000. The fields are open to the public and town recreational leagues.
QDC Managing Director Steve King said the property, which sits at 34 Camp Thomas Way, has evolved over time. It was dedicated as Camp Thomas in 1942, when 500 Quonset huts were situated on the land and it served as a “transitional transient camp” during World War II. The site was abandoned after the war before serving as a missile site from 1956-61.
King said the fields are dedicated “to the youth of North Kingstown so they can have a place to make their bodies well and grow through team camaraderie and those types of recreational activities.”
Town Manager A. Ralph Mollis, Town Council President Richard Welch, state Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor and DEM Planning and Development Chief Megan DiPrete attended the event, along with state Rep. Robert Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown), North Kingstown School Department Chief Operating Officer Mary King, Superintendent Dr. Phil Auger and North Kingstown Planning and Development Director Nicole LaFontaine.
DiPrete spoke of the partnership behind the project, noting that it took several parties to come together to complete the fields. DEM handled stormwater management provisions and parking, while King took on irrigating the fields with QDC.
“Every little piece fits into that puzzle,” she said. “And that’s something that the town has done, on a cultural level, and I’m proud to be a part of, even a small piece of that, but really the kudos for that goes to the community and the partnerships that you have developed to help bring that about.”
Mollis said the project dates back to before his time as town manager. He thanked various municipal departments for their assistance in making the new fields possible.
“It really is a team that is second to none, and I hope as they come to work in North Kingstown every single day, and see various youth organizations playing here, they can pat themselves on the back and realize that through their efforts and their day-to-day routine, they’re actually making a difference,” he said. “And that’s what this is all about.”
Welch focused on the “positive transition” that Quonset has undergone since the Navy’s departure in 1974. He said the town’s relationship with QDC is excellent, and he praised King for his role in the partnership.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the way I feel about working with Steve, and I know the town manager feels the same way,” he said. “This is just an indication of how we can work together to support each other. It seems like we keep on coming here at ribbon-cuttings for businesses almost on a monthly basis. Growth here has been tremendous, and this is just part of it.”
Pryor said the fields are “meaningful to us” and represent another advancement in efforts to improve quality of life locally and across Rhode Island.
“We all know that the statistics matter, the incentives matter … competent, outstanding management matters, but also, quality of life matters,” he said. “It’s an incredible accomplishment to have these playing fields.”