Bonnie Van Slyke: Sun Editors Missing The Real Story

The following letter appeared in the Westerly Sun and is shared with us here by the author Bonnie Van Slyke. Bonnie Van Slyke is a member of the Charlestown Town Council.

Really?! Missing from the Westerly Sun’s Monday, Jan. 16, “Highs and Lows” was any mention of a meeting in Charlestown that was attended by well over 400 people!

I urge the editor to give “Highs and Lows” ink to the hearing that brought overwhelming opposition to the proposed new tracks through Charlestown. I also urge your readers to look closely at the issue and to email their comments to the Federal Railroad Administration at by the Tuesday, Jan. 31, deadline. Anyone, not just someone from Charlestown, can send a comment to the Federal Railroad Administration at this address.

The meeting was called by the Charlestown Town Council to gather comments as part of its formal response to the railroad administration’s Tier 1 Final Environmental Statement for rail in the Northeast Corridor. For more see the Westerly Sun, Thursday, Jan. 12, article, ‘Hundreds Turn Out in Opposition of Proposed Charlestown Railroad Bypass.’

Approximately 430 people signed in before the meeting was gaveled to order. At the meeting a petition with the names of over 2,500 people who objected was submitted to the council. Nearly all of those who signed in and all who spoke were opposed to the alignment of the proposed new tracks through Charlestown. When asked during the meeting, no one spoke out in favor.

Although the meeting specifically addressed the proposed new tracks through Charlestown, other towns in Rhode Island and Connecticut affected by the so-called Old Saybrook to Kenyon Bypass have also objected. In our neighboring state, the severe impact on Old Lyme raised such strong opposition from residents that the governor and other officials of the state of Connecticut objected. All argue that Amtrak should be kept within its current right of way.

And, to the editor, I submit that massive public resistance to adding railroad tracks outside the current railroad right of way in Charlestown — a project that would destroy existing homes, historic villages, and self-sustaining farmland; that would divide a 1,100-acre nature preserve and take or cut through other protected conservation lands; that would invade sovereign Native American property; and that would adversely impact an Environmental Protection Agency-designated sole source aquifer and the Pawcatuck River, a wild and scenic river, and its watershed — is a much bigger story than who, at a meeting attended by about a half dozen partisans, got appointed to the 13th seat on the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Bonnie Van Slyke
Bonnie Van Slyke