Rhode Island's Scenic Roads

Rhode Island's Scenic Roadways

The purpose of the Scenic Highways section of the RI General Laws is “to create and preserve rustic and scenic highways for vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian travel in unhurried, quiet, and leisurely enjoyment; to protect and preserve recreational driving, culture, beauty, trees, vegetation, shoreline, and wildlife by establishing protective standards of scenic highway design, speed, maintenance, and identification, which will promote a continuous system of scenic highways and scenic easement for the public health and welfare.”

Rhode Island’s nine designated scenic roadways range from rural/suburban Breakneck Hill Road in Lincoln, Hope Street in Bristol, Paradise Loop in Middletown, Ministerial Road in South Kingstown, Ten Rod Road in Exeter, Veterans Memorial Parkway in East Providence, Route 1 in South Kingstown, Route 1 in Charlestown and Shannock Road in Charlestown and Richmond.

The Scenic Roadways Board with Senate-confirmed members representing the general public, RI Builders Association, and Grow Smart Rhode Island as well as RIDOT and RI Department of Environmental Management designees, and the chair of the RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, meets routinely to review applications for alteration within the right-of-way of the nine state- and locally-owned scenic roadways.  A project is approved if there is no adverse effect on the scenic resources or characteristics of the scenic road, or approved with conditions to mitigate the adverse effect. The board also evaluates requests from municipalities for new scenic road designations, subsequent to a public hearing within the subject community.

Scenic Roadway Board jurisdiction is generally limited to the roadway right of way but may include consideration of viewsheds or views from the road as outlined in the scenic road stewardship plans developed by each community.  The Scenic Roadway Board has no authority or jurisdiction regarding land use or zoning of adjacent private or public property although the board endeavors to work closely with municipal departments.  The board works with project applicants including developers of abutting property, RIDOT and utilities to assure that scenic values of the roadways are protected and adverse harm is mitigated to the greatest extent possible.

Shannock Road

City/Town: Charlestown & Richmond

Length: 1.7 miles from Route 2 to Route 112

Scenic Highway Designation: January, 1991

Description: The roadway winds through a unique area of rolling terrain and a variety of different landscapes including marshes, woodlands, and farm field bounded by stone walls.

Midway along the road is the historic Shannock Village, a small, but well-preserved, rural textile mill village. Throughout the nineteenth century, small mills were constructed on waterways of Southern Rhode Island, and around the mills grew villages to house the workers. The village is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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Ministerial Road

City/Town: South Kingstown

Length: 6 miles from Route 1 to Route 138

Scenic Highway Designation: September, 1991

Description: The roadway, designated as Route 110, passes through dense stands of upland forest well known for the extensive areas of mountain laurel and rhododendron, which grow underneath the upland forest canopy.

The road passes through a rolling landscape characterized by glacial kettle holes and moraines, several small brooks, wetlands and Larkin Pond. Along much of the road, stone walls underscore the fact that this area was once largely farmland and pasture.

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Veterans Memorial Parkway

City/Town: East Providence

Length: 2.4 miles from Second Street to Route 103

Scenic Highway Designation: November, 1991

Description: This runs along the Providence River and affords impressive vistas of the downtown Providence skyline. It is lined with mature maple, oak, black pine and sycamore trees, and passes the locally notable landmarks of Squantum Woods, Watchemoket Cove and Fort Hill Overlook.

Although entirely within an urban area, Veterans Memorial Parkway has pastoral charm with the nearby urban landscape masked by the adjacent heavily wooded areas of both public and private land.

Constructed between 1910 and 1920, Veterans Memorial Parkway is an example of the Parkway movement in the early 20th century. It is significant for is association with the Greater Metropolitan Park Plan for Providence and for its design by the nationally prominent Olmsted firm. The Parkway has been recommended as eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

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Paradise Avenue and Associated Roads

City/Town: Middletown

Length: An 8.3-mile scenic roadway network along Paradise Avenue, Berkeley Avenue, Wyatt Road, Mitchell's Lane, Wapping Road, Peckham Avenue, Indian Avenue and Hanging Rock Road.

Scenic Highway Designation: May, 1993

Description: Contained within the boundaries of the scenic road network are many locally significant historic features, both manmade and natural, as well as some of national interest. The entire area is filled with historic homes of all types of architectural styles from Victorian to Greek Revival and to colonial as well as other 18th Century structures.

The roads feature bordering trees of exceptional quality in terms of ages of specimen or spread and related flora. As the roadway gently slopes seaward, it passes Paradise Rock and Hanging Rock, made of a fine blue-gray hued stone quarried by the sixth generation of the Peckham Family, dating back to 1844.

The roads lead the traveler to the Atlantic Ocean and the Sakonnet River, and both fresh and salt water wetlands with its tall marsh grasses. Easy access to the shoreline is afforded at Sachuest Beach, both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife-lead Sachuest Point and privately held Norman Bird sanctuary offer miles of trails for exploring this unique area.

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Great Road/Breakneck Hill Road

City/Town: Lincoln

Length: 1.4 miles along Route 123 from Route 146 to Manchester Print Works Road

Scenic Highway Designation: June, 1993

Description: This scenic roadway is known for great vistas at every curve and bends along its path across the Moshassuck River Valley. It traverses vast open space and rolling farmlands, punctuated by the view of a towering sycamore amidst open fields and fir trees.

Great Road dates back to 1683 as one of the earliest colonial roads, and portions of it are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Great Road Historic District. At the corner of Great Road and Breakneck Hill Road lies over 150 acres of farmland consisting of a horse farm and Chase Farm, purchased as open space.

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Route 102

City/Town: Exeter

Length: 7.3 miles between Route 2 and Route 3

Scenic Highway Designation: September, 1993

Description: The roadway traverses Exeter's rolling topography, with elongated hills that run north to south, separated by narrow valleys. These hills are some of the highest in Rhode Island, up to 560 feet above sea level. The landscape of woodland pastures is unspoiled by commercial development.

Most of the highway follows the 18th century Ten Rod Road and is still bounded by significant sections of the original stone walls. Located along the highway are historic structures and sites, and two historic districts. Commonly known as "Exeter's Main Street," Route 102 was once used to carry goods and livestock to a market at the colonial seaport of Wickford.

The highway crosses five valleys containing the streams that constitute the headwaters of the Queen's River watershed - the most pristine waterway in Rhode Island. A traveler along the roadway can see remarkable degrees of contrast. This includes hilltop panoramas to intimate views contained in the valleys below. Stands of pine are interspersed with red maple in the valleys and wetlands, which offer an exceptional display of scarlet each autumn. Moving east, the forest areas give way to agricultural open spaces.

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Route 114

City/Town: Bristol

Length: 5 miles along Route 114 (Hope Street and Ferry Road) and High Street from the Warren town line to the Mt. Hope Bridge.

Scenic Highway Designation: August, 2000

Description: The most telling attribute of this scenic roadway is its canopy of mature trees, which line nearly the entire length. Motorists traveling through Bristol pass through a rare example of a 17th century planned "grid" community.

Route 114 is lined with many historic homes and buildings, and many other historic sites exist along this route, such as Colt State Park and Blithewold Gardens and Arboretum. As one travels through the historic district, every side street culminates in a beautiful view of Bristol Harbor and Poppasquash Point.

This scenic highway is also home to the oldest Fourth of July Parade in the country, dating back to 1785.

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Route 1

City/Town: Charlestown

Length: 7 miles, from the South Kingston town line to the Westerly town line.

Scenic Highway Designation: August, 2002

Description: Route 1, or Post Road, has wonderful views that create an attractive and integrated traveling experience across southern Rhode Island. The road possesses outstanding natural, historical, and cultural characteristics, significant recreational opportunities, and other significant visual characteristics.

There are important natural resources along Post Road that, for the most part, have been well preserved. On the northerly side, being the edge of the glacial Charlestown Moraine, there is thick and beautiful foliage consisting of a variety of species of trees. The median strip, which is very wide for over half of the road, has attractive plantings which block the view of oncoming traffic in many areas. On the southerly side, the vegetation is lower, offering the driver an occasional glimpse of South County's salt ponds.

In addition to the scenic natural beauty, there are interesting historical and cultural resources along the road dating back as far as the 17th century. These include the 1667 Stanton Inn, the Wilcox Tavern, the Joseph Stanton House and monument, and a red saltbox near the Wilcox Tavern. Many exit signs identify nearby historic sites, many of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Post Road offers easy access to numerous recreational opportunities, including stretches of undeveloped coastline and large salt ponds connected to the Atlantic Ocean through breachways. Rhode Island's largest campground at Burlingame Park is also along this scenic roadway.

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Route 1

City/Town: South Kingstown

Length: 12.35 miles, within South Kingstown Corporate Limits (from the Charlestown town line to the Narragansett town line as well as the portion from the other Narragansett town line to North Kingstown town line).

Scenic Highway Designation: May 2018

Description: The roadway follows the historic Post Road from the intermittent residential and commercial areas of the northern section to the open space, agricultural land, marinas, and forested areas south of the Wakefield cutoff. Beginning as a web of Indian trails used for centuries by native inhabitants, the road was later developed in the colonial era to become an important route for carrying mail and newspapers.

Today, the natural views are noteworthy. The vegetation alongside the road is diverse with upland deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests, scrub shrub communities and herbaceous species. From the road one can see Pt. Judith Pond, Silver Spring Cove, Mill Pond, Perch Cove, and sometimes Indian Lake. And on clear days, Aquidneck Island and the City of Newport can be seen across Narragansett Bay.

The rich agrarian history in the area is exhibited by the approximate four miles of stone walls running parallel to the road and the early settlements of the Narragansett Indians throughout the area. The roadway also features historic places like Willow Dell, Whaley Farm, Rocky Meadows Farm, Jeremiah Robinson House ("Endaler"), Shadblow Farm, the Robert Beverly Hale Library, the Helme-Torrey Cemetery, and the Observation Tower and Hannah Robinson Rock at the intersection of Route 138.

Please note that a ½-mile portion of the roadway (approximately in the middle) passes through the town of Narragansett and is excluded from the description. It should also be noted that Route 1 intersects with Ministerial Road, another RI designated Scenic Roadway.

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