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Curt Spalding, Executive Director
Save The Bay Center Ribbon Cutting
June 2, 2005

I want to especially thank our speakers and the agency leaders that are attending from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration.

Every agency I mentioned has made an important contribution to the success of this endeavor.

It is an honor that such a distinguished group of leaders are here to celebrate with us.

The Bay Center fulfills the dream of many. Without the extraordinary leadership of Save The Bay's Board of Directors and its officers we would not be here today. For I must assure you, getting to this day was not an easy road.

We need to remember that in the fall of 2001 Save The Bay, like almost every nonprofit, was reeling from the impact of September 11. The funds needed to sustain Save The Bay's programs were not coming in. It was becoming clear that we were going to need to put plans in place to cut our programs and reduce our staff. The Save The Bay Center at Fields Point seemed like lost fantasy.

To this day I remember the deep sense of gratitude I felt when Senator Reed called to tell me that a $2 million grant had been secured to restore the land and build the Bay Center. I told Patrice that night that the Bay Center just became more than a dream. And that some way, somehow, the generous gift of land that Dr. Bowen and Johnson and Wales had given Save The Bay would indeed become the Bay Center.

I wish I could thank everyone by name. You will, however, see the names of our major donors as you tour the building today on the temporary facsimile of our donor wall. The donor wall was designed by our good friend John "Fud" Benson, a renowned artist and husband of our President, Karen Benson. And you'll also see that our gallery, board room and a number of meeting rooms are named in honor of some of our most generous benefactors. You will also see that a few rooms are not yet named - once a fundraiser always a fundraiser.

I must extend Save The Bay's congratulations and sincere thanks to our general contractor, Agostini Construction, and all of the sub contractors who worked so hard to fulfill the vision of our architect Randy Croxton. Both Mr. Agostini and Randy shared a heartfelt commitment to the mission of this project. There were times that their reassurances were all we had to sustain the confidence needed to keep perservering. Through the whole process I always felt that they were in our corner and would do whatever they could to help Save The Bay succeed.

As soon as we cut the ribbon, I hope you will join Randy in our main meeting room, for a discussion of the building's design and functionality. It will be a short talk, and I promise you will leave here with a true understanding of what we have accomplished and why Randy got the contract.

Finally, I am honored to extend Save The Bay's deepest appreciation to Mayor David Cicilline and his staff - namely Carol Grant and John Nicholson. The story of this facility starts in a much different time when the City of Providence made the Bay a dump. By investing in infrastructure necessary to use this parcel, Mayor Cicilline has done all he could to rectify that past wrong. The Mayor is now advancing a new vision for the Providence Waterfront. We hope that the Bay Center has raised the bar and will help define what that vision will be.

A reporter asked me the other day how long it took to build this building. I explained that the idea got started at a meeting at Narragansett Electric that took place in 1996. And that we launched our capital campaign privately in 1999 and publicly in March of 2000. And I explained that we broke ground in November of 2002 and so on …

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized there is a better answer.

How long did it take to build this building?

It took Save The Bay 35 years.

Back in the 1970's, in Save The Bay's infancy, our "building" was a few rooms in a former residential home on Francis Street in Providence. A two-minute walk from the State House, it was exactly where we needed to be for, as many of you know, Save The Bay evolved from an ad hoc committee that stood up to oppose several proposed industrial projects that would have spelled environmental disaster for the Bay.

Even as we grew and Francis Street got crowded, with advocacy work as our core activity, we were happy to relocate just a few blocks further west on Smith Street - still within striking distance of the State House.

Over the years, Save The Bay not only grew, it matured as an organization. We launched the Explore The Bay program, hired educators and created programs for both students and the general public. We saw a need to lead the way in habitat restoration, building fish ladders, restoring salt marshes and, later, restoring precious eelgrass in Narragansett Bay. We bought a boat and got more students and adults out on the Bay to see its wonders first hand.

We have indeed come a long way. All this hard work - all these accomplishments made possible by hundreds of staff that over the years helped grow Save The Bay's mission, and the thousands of volunteers who contributed - has now paid off. We got here because of the dedication of many elected officials who care about the environment. We got here because of business leaders who understand that giving back to the community is more than good PR, it's a responsibility. And we got here through the generosity of many individuals, those with great capacity to give and those that give all they can, all of whom love Narragansett Bay and want to see Save The Bay do the best it can to ensure its health and future.

Yes it took 35 years to build this building. And, in the years to come, the promise the Bay Center holds will need to be fulfilled.

When you tour the site today, you'll see the salt marsh we have restored and the coastal buffer zone we planted. The promise of the Bay Center will be fulfilled if living shorelines and buffers are part of the development plans along the water throughout urban Rhode Island.

As you continue your tour you'll see a sunny classroom where an outstanding group of marine educators will reach thousands of schoolchildren. The children will be inspired by the process of discovery. They will learn that Bay life is fascinating and worth conserving. As a congressional appropriator Representative Kennedy sits on the subcommittee that makes NOAA's budget. Our congressional delegation working with Congressman Kennedy has made sure that urban schools in Rhode Island get the same opportunity for marine education as urban school children in Maryland. The congressional delegation has worked together tirelessly. They know that by finding funding to help kids get connected to the Bay the promise of the Bay Center will be fulfilled.

At the Bay Center we have demonstrated that brownfields can become greenfields and dredge material can be used to restore land instead of polluting the Ocean. By making brownfield restoration and marine conservation a priority the Bay Center demonstrates Senator Lincoln Chafee's policy goals as a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The promise of the Bay Center will be fulfilled when Bay shoreline brownfields are turned green and stormwater stays on site and does not run off into the Bay.

How long did it take to build this building?

It took 35 years. It took a generation.

How long will it take to fulfill its promise?

That's up to all of us.

Because this building and the work that it stands for will serve Narragansett Bay and its inhabitants for generations to come. These 35 years have been an investment in the future. Today, we celebrate that investment. And we look forward to its dividends.

I need to close with a final thank you. As most of you know, volunteering to lead or work for a non profit is a demanding commitment. Families make extraordinary sacrifices. I know that in my case I would all too often bring home the frustration associated with finishing a project that took more than twice a long as anyone thought it would. Thank you Patrice and all the family members of all the staff and board members that stuck with us through the many years it took to realize this dream. I think today we all know it was worth it and we would not be here without you.

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