BURRILLVILLE – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has announced plans to begin removing docks at the former Echo Lake Campground this week along more than 2,000 feet of shoreline at the 235-acre property.
DEM acquired the campground for $2 million, using financing from the state’s open space bond funds, in January 2021.
The project entails permanently removing 44 dock structures, and is expected to be completed by early February of 2023, according to a release from RIDEM.
The agency’s long term plans for the property, family owned for more than six decades, still remain somewhat murky, but will, “benefit the public,” according to the release this week. RIDEM has reportedly begun developing a master plan to evaluate site conditions, consider habitat values, and conceptualize the land’s best future use.
“At this property and in this project, DEM is aiming to provide superior recreation opportunities for public enjoyment while stewarding natural resources, in this case protecting the water quality of Echo Lake and its wetland ecosystems,” said DEM Director Terry Gray.
Since its closure and subsequent purchase, only passive use of the property has been allowed. The campground was founded in 1952 by Helen and John Moroney, lifelong Pascoag residents, and active members in both politics and the local community.
The docks, situated on the west side of the lake, were installed by prior users of the campground, and RIDEM notes that some have fallen into disrepair. Since the acquisition, the agency says DEM staff have frequently visited the property to maintain it, removing any debris to protect swimmers and other water users.
Norfolk, Mass.-based MAS Building and Bridge has been awarded the state contract for the work following a competitive bidding process. The contractor plans to access the docks via the former boat ramp toward the south end of the property, and demolish the structures by working on the exposed lake bottom. Debris will be stockpiled safely away from the water while work is taking place, then properly disposed offsite, according to RIDEM.
“If the future development plan for the site includes public water access, DEM will design a public dock or boat ramp meeting all codes and guidelines,” the agency notes.
The release points out that properties the size of the former campground are increasingly rare in Rhode Island.
“Preserving this land adds to the existing 15,100-acre corridor of conserved forestland in the northwest corner of the state that filters air and water, providing innumerable benefits to wildlife as well as recreational opportunities,” RIDEM noted. “Rhode Island’s wealth of historic parks, bikeways, and green spaces provide for public enjoyment – along with improving the health of the environment, strengthening the state’s climate resilience, and supporting the economy.”
Since 1985, the agency has protected more than 10,000 acres of land, and RIDEM notes that voting, “yes” on Question No. 3, the 2022 green bond on the General Election ballot will ensure clean water in the state’s ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams long into the future.
Removal of the docks is expected to begin this week, weather permitting.
Project questions can be directed to DEM.Projects@dem.ri.gov.