Narragansett Bay: A Friend's Perspective 

Beavertail Point, Jamestown

If it is true that environment shapes and molds the human character, then Narragansett Bay has provided an environment through the years which has exerted a powerful force on the lives of generations of Rhode Islanders. Present inhabitants of the nation's smallest state, while no longer as dependent on the Bay for the necessities and luxuries of life as were their predecessors, retain deep, often subconscious, attachment to their link with the open sea.

When the decision was made to attempt to write a short book covering the entire history of Narragansett Bay, detail had to be sacrificed all along the way. A definitive book about almost any single aspect of the Bay—its shipping and commerce or its marine life, for example—could take years of scholarly work. It was presumptuous perhaps to attempt to use a broad brush to paint the entire picture, but then there was no intention of informing scholars of history and economics and the marine scientists about the Bay.

The idea that there was a need for the story of Narragansett Bay in this form originated with Waiter J. Gray, Director of the Division of Marine Resources, and Dr. Niels Rorholm, Sea Grant Coordinator, at the University of Rhode Island. Their encouragement and help 'were invaluable. A number of individuals gave time for interviews which helped the author toward certain conclusions, and their contribution is greatly appreciated. The published work of others was drawn on heavily. Four major repositories of information were used primarily. These were the Claiborne Pell Marine Science Library at the University of Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay Campus, where an outstanding collection of scientific and technical papers and reports is developing; the extensive holdings of the Providence Public Library; the archives of the library of the Rhode Island Historical Society; and the flies of the Providence Journal Company.

This book has been written out of a deep affection for Narragansett Bay and the people of Rhode Island, who have used it hard and abused it somewhat, but so far not too harshly. The Bay needs to be looked at so that it can work for its friends to best advantage in the years ahead. If we were all more fully informed about this very important resource, perhaps we might share similar goals and make the right decisions concerning its future. I have approached this informational task byattempting to tell the story of Narragansett Bay, how it happened, how it has been used, and what the people who use it think about it, and then I will try a summary and somewhat risky look into the future.

Although I have been an environmentalist for many years and a planner concerned with natural resource problems for much of the last decade, I also worked as a journalist for even longer than I care to remember. It is as a journalist that I intend to approach the story, with prejudice in check and with partiality only toward the Bay itself. The people who use it have no dearth of advocates for their own positions.


Stuart O. Hale

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