Hundreds demanding public access to reservoir be restored

JOHNSTON R.I (WPRI) — Some residents near Oak Swamp Reservoir in Johnston aren’t as excited for summer as they usually are. A new locked gate is keeping people out of the water and now they’re taking action.

As Eyewitness News first reported months ago, lakefront homeowners created an association to ban the public from using the lake, even though it – along with the access road – is town-owned. Association members believe that public access to the lake causes safety issues.

Mayor Joseph Polisena agreed the road should be restricted in order to minimize liability.

However, Johnston citizen Brittany Valentine said the lake should remain open to the public. When she contacted her state representative, Stephen Ucci – who happens to own property on the lake – he responded with a letter saying, “My goal is to work with all those involved to ensure that it remains a safe and enjoyable place for everyone to enjoy.”

Undeterred, Brittany created a petition and has received hundreds of signatures in support for restoring public access.

“When I walked around the community, everyone was more than happy to sign,” she said.

When Town Council President Robert Russo was asked how the town plans on handling the problem, he responded: “I think it should be incumbent upon the council to have a workshop to sit down both groups, and work out some type of compromise.” Adding, “I understand people on the lake want to have quiet and enjoy it as much as they can, but they bought their land on a public lake so they have to understand that the public may want to get on there.”

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