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Early Summer ’24 Update

Early Summer ’24 Update

BIRA has been and continues to be a voice for the entire Block Island community.  It is a voice for full-time Island residents, for homeowners, taxpayers and seasonal residents, whether or not they are registered to vote on Block Island.  As a voice for the community, BIRA continues to make a lasting impact.

While there are over 2000 taxpayers on the Island, there are only 1100 registered voters. Fewer than 750 voted in our state and local election in 2022. At the Financial Town Meeting in May, even far fewer registered voters — 111 to be exact — voted on the Town’s $19 million 2024-2025 budget.  These statistics underscore the need for an active voice to represent the entire community.   BIRA is that voice.

Let’s celebrate BIRA’s 70 years of advocating and providing support for our Block Island community. We have much to be proud of.

Strategic Priority Issues for 2024-2025

 

These priorities were decided upon from discussions at our Annual 2024 Spring Retreat where we:

  • Delineated the issues that our members rank as most important
  • Considered ways BIRA could make an impact on each of these issues.
  • Reviewed the issues on which BIRA already is making a difference and the issues that are being championed by other Block Island organizations/entities to avoid duplicating efforts

Support for Sensible Health and Safety Reforms

Last summer, BIRA and RespectBI convened a community forum on Block Island’s roadway safety. The panelists were Kate Butcher of Block Island Realty, Rescue Captain Tracy Fredericks, Police Chief John Lynch, First Warden Keith Stover, and Dr. Thomas Warcup of the Medical Center. We were delighted that Representative Tina Spears and Senator Alana DiMario also were in attendance.

Both members of the RI legislature subsequently sponsored House and Senate bills that if enacted would enable the Town Council to enact sensible health and safety reforms on the Island. Senate bill 2970 was introduced on April 5 by Senators DiMario and Sosnowski; and House bill 8157 was introduced April 10 by Representatives Spears, Carson, Speakman, McGaw, Shanley, Azzinaro, McEntee, Donovan, Cotter, and Kennedy.

Both bills amend the existing law, “Regulation of Rental of Motorized Bicycles, Motor Scooters and Motorized Tricycles in New Shoreham” (R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-19.3-5) by removing the limits on the scope of the ordinances that the town can pass “for the licensing, supervision, regulation, and control of the rental of motorized bicycles, motor scooters and motorized tricycles.”

More information on this important legislative initiative may be found in the May 17th article, published in the Block Island Times. This article details the Town Council’s efforts to increase moped safety and reduce the stress on the Block Island Volunteer Rescue Squad and Block Island Medical Center staff

Taking a Fresh Look at Deer Management

In February 1967, in response to a request by Block Islanders and the Town Council to have a hunting season on the island, four deer were sent by the State of Rhode Island to the Island by ferry (and the rest, as they say, is history). See recent article in the Block Island Times.

There have been no deer counts on Block Island since 2014, but current estimates are that the island currently may have over 2,000 deer. If this number is correct, BI’s deer density would be in the 160 to 200 deer per square mile range. The recommended deer density by the RI Department of Conservation (DEC) is between 8 and 15 deer per square mile. The excessive number of deer on BI has for a long time prompted concerns from full-time and seasonal residents about the need to manage the size of a deer population to minimize deer-human conflicts, including autostrikes, health issues (Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases), and ecological damage.

A recent (2023) BIRA survey of its members indicated that a significant percentage of the Block Island year-round and seasonal residents continue to be bitten by ticks, and that there was strong island-wide support for reducing the deer population on Block Island.

Since the BI Deer Task Force has not been in operation for about 2.5 years, in its place BIRA plans to engage with the Town Council to discuss and jointly approve a series of steps for moving forward with a plan to dramatically cull the deer herd on BI to reduce the deer’s increasing negative effects on humans

Community Support

BI School Trip to St. Croix — BIRA supported a field trip to St. Croix for BI School 10th graders. The students spent a week working with the St. Croix Nature Conservancy staff to learn about safeguarding the waters and land, habitat restoration, coral innovation projects, and studying biogeography and environmental issues.

Grant to Historical Society — BIRA recently awarded a grant to the Block Island Historical Society to support the work of historian, Ben Hruska, to create a digital archive of the collections of Kathryn Champlin and Violette Connelly. The collection consists of over 50 BIRA newsletters spanning the years 1972-1988. Once complete, access to these collections will allow scholars and the general public to research many interesting aspects of Block Island’s rich history.

Lunch at the Community Center — BIRA sponsored Chef George Dodge’s Lobster Roll luncheon on May 21st at the Community Center. Following lunch, Joe Loya, BIRA’s president, gave a brief presentation on BIRA’s current activities. We were pleased to see so many BIRA members, including former BIRA Board members, in attendance

Community Service Award — Each year, BIRA recognizes a Block Island School graduate, who is continuing to post-secondary education (2- or 4-year college, trade school or technical school), and who has made significant contributions to the Block Island community through their time, actions, talents, and dedication. This year, we are pleased to recognize graduating student Blaize Hatfield

Summer Entertainment on the Beach!

Please mark your calendar and plan to join us at the Fred Benson Town Pavilion this summer for two entertaining evenings under the stars co-sponsored by BIRA.

Blues on the Block

Concert featuring Neal and the Vipers on Wednesday, July 17th.

Soundwave’s Movies on the Beach

Barbie [2023, PG-13] on Tuesday, August 6th.

Celebrate BIRA’s 70th Anniversary:
Recognize BIRA’s Impact on BI

Mark your calendar and plan to join us on September 28 for our Annual Meeting and Island Treasure Award when we formally celebrate the impact BIRA has made and continues to make on life on Block Island over its 70 years (details to follow.)

  1. Please consider renewing your annual $50 membership* online today by clicking this link  or by mailing your check to BIRA, PO Box 456, Block Island, RI 02807.  Download printable membership form.
  2. Please also consider supporting BIRA’s advocacy and community support work on behalf of Block Island residents with a “$70 for 70 years” donation.

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