Town pursues grant to renovate Diamond Hill ski lodge

Town pursues grant to renovate Diamond Hill ski lodge

A previous rendering shows what the ski lodge at Diamond Hill Park could look like after renovations.

CUMBERLAND – A significant domino in the long-planned improvements to Diamond Hill Park could fall under a plan to use $400,000 to renovate the park’s notoriously homely ski lodge.

The Town Council last week approved a maximum $400,000 large recreational grant application to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, drafted by busy grant writer Lisa Andoscia, to upgrade the old building. The plan is centered on making the ski lodge a place that promotes health and wellness and enhances quality of life for multiple generations of Cumberland residents.

A major goal here, said Andoscia, is to consolidate and centralize the town’s summer camps, which are spread among several schools. A renovated lodge would provide shelter during stormy weather and create more connectivity within the park, including its event spaces, trails, and athletic fields.

The grant would pay for a new ADA entrance, restrooms, and renovation of community rooms. It needed council approval because it requires a 20 percent match in cash or in-kind contributions by the town.

Councilor Bob Shaw asked why the town chose to back out of an additional $100,000 small grant for field upgrades, as officials have long talked about the grants together, and Andoscia responded that after having a conversation with a RIDEM representative, the agency would simply not award two grants for one property.

Another grant would add to recent momentum for this well-worn park long stuck in a sort of holding pattern as various parties have debated its future. State Sen. Ryan Pearson and Rep. Alex Marszalkowski announced a second $300,000 RIDEM grant in the state budget for park improvements in October, adding to a $300,000 grant announced a year earlier. Submissions for the latest grant round were due this week.

Councilor Lisa Beaulieu asked at the Dec. 4 council meeting whether the footprint of the ski lodge would remain the same under this latest plan, after some talk of realigning it to tie it into other planned new amenities behind it.

Mayor Jeff Mutter responded that after some discussion on a potential demolition, officials believe keeping the same footprint will save some money. There have long been concerns about air quality in the building, he said, but those concerns were recently “proven to be not true” through testing.

A $100,000 smaller grant, if it had been applied for, would have gone toward adding bathrooms and a concession stand next to the park’s athletic fields, said Mutter.

In late September, Mutter revealed the latest conceptual plans for revamping the park prior to a brainstorming session with the community.

That plan calls for creating a family play field with various amenities surrounding it directly behind the ski lodge, with lost parking there reclaimed elsewhere. Traffic configurations within the park would be moved around with the creation of more distinct and well-defined areas.

An expert working for the town said at that time that the ski lodge would likely be realigned.

Cumberland continues to model its efforts at park upgrades after North Providence’s Meehan Overlook at Notte Park. Andoscia is also the grant writer for that town.