Sometimes Queasy Memories of Rocky Point Park

There’s a stretch of broken railroad track where the scenic train once chugged. Down the gut of the place are towering, rusting hulks that were the stanchions of the Skyliner gondola ride.

At the top of the old ride are caves, formed by giant rocks that create tenuous walking paths, daring walkers then and now. There’s an old water tower, cracked old steps that lead to nowhere, and a ton of memories. And that’s pretty much all that’s left of Rocky Point Park, the venerable old iconic amusement park on the shores of Narragansett Bay on Warwick Neck.

It is now a state park, free for the strolling, about 100 acres of gorgeous, wide open spaces and killer bay views, with a one-mile paved walking track around the site that allows old-timers like me the chance to relive old memories. Which in my case, involves tossing my cookies.

I’d come in the waning days of the park’s operation in the early 1990s with my son, then about five, having visited it many times as a kid myself growing up in Seekonk. We went on the ride where you’re crammed into a little car on a big wheel that goes around and around, the little car itself spinning madly on its own axis.

As a kid, this was a breeze. As a 40-something, not so much. I stumbled off the ride and heaved. My son insisted we do it again. I said no. But now, walking what was the midway past where that ride might have been, a little residual queasiness reminds me of how real this glorious place was.

It’s all gone, the Skyliner, the Corkscrew Roller Coaster, the Log Flume and the Freefall. So is the sprawling Shore Dinner Hall, famous for clamcakes, steamers (steamahs, if you want to sound Rhode Island) and room for 4,000 hungry patrons. Now there’s nothing but wide-open spaces that area absolutely wonderful to walk. With the towering rusting hulks that are those Skyliner stanchions, and a giant steel arch that was originally built for the 1964 World’s Fair still hugely visible, the site to me has this Cold War atmosphere to it, because in its heyday Rocky Point was a place to escape the realities of the world.

And you know what? It still is. Take a hike around the grounds, look out over the bay, walk into the stony hills that gave the place its name, and just forget about everything except where you are: In the middle of some pretty terrific Rhode Island memories.

(For a great take on Rocky Point, check out the award-winning “You Must Be This Tall: The Story of Rocky Point” at www.youtube.com/watch?v=pG5djZBthuc)

All photos by Paul E. Kandarian

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