Why Aquidneck Island communities must work together
For more than 300 years, municipalities in New England have provided core services, security and opportunities for work and prosperity to their citizens, operating largely independently from one another. Today, however, local economies based on small-scale farming, commerce and industry have been replaced by regional, national and international systems that drive employment, prosperity and municipal revenues.
The capacities of local governments are being stretched by new demands. State and federal governments impose increasingly stringent requirements. Schools strive to achieve higher educational goals for more diverse populations of students, with limited funding. Citizens require high levels of services within constrained municipal budgets. The huge natural forces of climate change and rising seas pose a complex and costly series of challenges to coastal communities like Portsmouth, Middletown and Newport.
Our Unique Advantages
Small cities and towns still have much to offer, including preserved landscapes, a deep sense of place and community and a high quality of life. But our discussions in the three Aquidneck Island communities found that many people in and out of government believe that these qualities of small town life are at risk from the unsustainable demands facing local governments.
Regionalization and Collaboration
Regional thinking and regional solutions offer the best way, and perhaps the only way, to cope with the looming challenges and unmet needs of our communities. Learning from the successes of other communities that have faced similar challenges can inspire action, reduce risk and increase the likelihood of success in new initiatives. Coordination and cooperation among the towns can lead to better services at lower cost and new responses to challenges and opportunities that communities could not implement individually.
The Aquidneck Island Planning Commission was created for just this reason. Over the last 20 years, we have modeled Island-wide thinking and planning through projects such as the West Side Master Plan, our Aquidneck Island Open Space Mapping and the Aquidneck Island Transportation Study. Our work shows that effective and affordable solutions to problems like traffic congestion, food security, clean water and environmental quality can be found if we are willing to step across town lines to look for them.
Today, we face increased urgency to think, plan and, most of all, act regionally. This strategic plan is designed to move our communities through a process of learning, decision-making and action on the critical issues before us today.
Goal 1: Dynamic Aquidneck Island
Promote the development of excellent infrastructure supporting a diverse and thriving economy.
- Improve access to broadband internet services for all Aquidneck Island businesses and residents.
- Continue to promote the recommendations of our 2015 Aquidneck Island Broadband Analysis.
- Develop Island-wide business plan for broadband.
- Convene broadband working group.
- Host broadband workshops and conferences.
- Support a more diverse and accessible transportation network.
- Pursue planning and funding of an Aquidneck Island Bikeway / Shoreline Greenway along the coastal rail line.
- Promote safer and more accessible areas for walking and biking – whether on or off-road.
- Support planning and implementation of non-automotive transportation alternatives and Complete Streets.
- Continue tracking state Transportation Improvement Plan.
- Help municipalities secure funding for transportation investments.
- Develop an Island-wide bike plan.
- Promote implementation of projects in the Aquidneck Island Transportation Study, subject to ongoing review and update.
- Support the infrastructure needs of Island-wide economic development initiatives.
- Support implementation of transportation infrastructure needs.
- Continue renewable energy development and promotion.
- Promote and support energy system diversity and resilience.
- Support recreational infrastructure as an economic development strategy.
- Coordinate and compliment local economic development initiatives.
Goal 2: Sustainable Aquidneck Island
Develop and support Island-wide responses to Aquidneck Island’s critical environmental needs.
- Coordinate joint storm water planning and management for Aquidneck Island communities.
- Pursue funding and implementation of an Island-wide water quality initiative, addressing Aquidneck Island’s network of fresh and salt waters, including drinking, ground and coastal waters.
- Implement Island Waters arts project and other initiatives to raise awareness of water quality issues on Aquidneck Island.
- Participate in R.I. Green Infrastructure Coalition and other regional and national groups focused on developing water quality solutions.
- Support Island-wide studies and planning for reducing vulnerability to natural hazards.
- With partners, develop Aquidneck Island Resilience Strategy.
- Conduct coastal planning initiatives for resilience and public access.
- Participate in and support other important Island-wide environmental initiatives.
- Promote conservation and management of open space and recreational areas.
- Support the Newport Open Space Partnership and similar initiatives.
Goal 3: Connected Aquidneck Island
Engage more Aquidneck Island residents, officials and businesses in Island-wide thinking and planning, and provide access to more complete data and plans.
- Develop and launch our Connect Aquidneck
- Provide online library of AIPC and third-party studies and plans pertaining to Aquidneck Island.
- Share news and links to ongoing planning processes.
- Develop an online public dialog on important Island-wide issues.
- Publish updated and improved information about island-wide indicators and issues.
- Complete Aquidneck Today reference book or similar compilation of information on the Island.
- Develop and track ongoing Island-wide status and trends data on key issues.
- Host at least four public forums and conferences on Island-wide issues each year.
- Host annual legislative forum.
- Organize biennial Island Summit Conference.
- Sponsor workshops and speakers.
- Support expanded municipal coordination and collaboration.
- Consult regularly with municipal leaders on shared issues.
- Identify most promising opportunities for collaboration.
- Identify and pursue resources to support collaborative work.
- Convene and coordinate collaborative projects.
- Assist with training for municipal officials.
- Explore opportunities for municipal shared services.