BRISTOL, RI – The Town of Bristol’s plan to turn the downtown Naval Reserve Armory into a municipal maritime center is getting a major boost from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), in the form of an $861,000 Boating Infrastructure Grant.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed today joined Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Janet Coit, along with a host of Bristol officials and members of the Town Council to outline a plan to help lure more boaters and anglers to Bristol and boost the local economy.

The Town of Bristol wants to renovate and update the historic Naval Reserve Armory to serve as a public maritime center for the benefit of visiting transient boaters.  The facility will feature amenities such as laundry, restrooms with showers, storage, common areas to socialize, and information about downtown shops and restaurants.  In addition to the maritime center, the project also includes installation of 16 additional transient moorings, and a dingy dock with fresh water for eligible boaters.

“It is important to help cities and towns across Rhode Island capitalize on their assets and one of Bristol’s great attractions is our beautiful waterfront.  I am pleased the Town of Bristol and DEM successfully partnered to win this $861,000 U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant to help build a new boating facility.  Turning the Naval Reserve Armory into a municipal maritime center will ensure that visitors and local boaters have access to high-quality facilities,” said Reed, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, which oversees federal funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The federal grant comes from a U.S. Fish & Wildlife fund designated to support recreational boating through the Boating Infrastructure Grant program, which promotes water access and opportunities for recreational anglers and boaters, including through construction projects.  Boaters and industry manufacturers support the program through excise and other taxes placed on fishing and boating equipment, along with marine fuels.

The $861,000 federal contribution will be matched by $896,000 in state and local funds that stem from a $9-million bond referendum approved by voters last November.

Business students from the Roger Williams University Community Partnership Center also helped play a role in helping Bristol land the grant.  The students conducted a feasibility study of the maritime center concept and determined the project was financially feasible and economically beneficial.  Their study found the average visiting boater spends about $70 a day in Bristol and that fully utilizing the harbor could cause an economic impact of $707,000 per year.

In 2008, Reed helped Newport secure a $713,000 federal Boating Infrastructure Grant to renovate the Armory Wharf and construct a central tie-up facility for visiting boaters, with restrooms and other amenities.