A Section of Rhode Island's Famed Cliff Walk Is Closed Indefinitely After Collapse

The 3.5-mile public pathway in Newport runs along the city's iconic Atlantic coastline.

One of Rhode Island's most prized attractions is partially closed after a 20-foot section of the famed Cliff Walk collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean last week.

"We are just so fortunate no one was hurt and that luckily only a portion of the Cliff Walk is closed due to the recent collapse," Discover Newport's CEO Evan Smith told Travel + Leisure on Tuesday. "The 540 feet damaged by the recent collapse of the Cliff Walk will be repaired and progress reports about that construction timeline will be shared with the public."

Cliff Walk frequenters can stay informed by checking the City of Newport's dedicated webpage to the status of the attraction.

The fallen portion is just south of the 40 Steps landmark along the walk between Narragansett Avenue and Webster Street, and will be closed "for the foreseeable future," the City of Newport said on its site and social media. They also said that they expected further deterioration in the coming days.

"Please note that the remainder of the Cliff Walk remains open for recreation and we're looking forward to building back this section of pathway even better than before," the city added. Visitors can still complete the walk by rerouting to local streets at the closed-off section.

Even with the incident, the Cliff Walk — which follows the Atlantic Ocean coastline behind 64 of Newport's finest Gilded Age mansions — remains a favorite activity.

Cliff Walk
Pedestrians walk down the Forty Steps, part of the Cliff Walk, on May 09, 2020 in Newport, RI. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

"Visitors can still expect to enjoy a majority of the trail today including the 40 steps, entrance, and end of walk," Smith said. "As a coveted attraction and public access walk for Newport, the Cliff Walk remains a safe place for visitors to enjoy. The city would not keep the remaining walk open if there was a danger to pedestrians"

The collapse was a shock, even to local authorities.

"This is crazy," Newport's director of public services William Riccio told The Newport Daily News on Thursday. "It's a complete failure of... I can't even fill in that blank right now. You can't believe the piles of debris right now."

However Smith noted that "rain, wind and the coastal erosion have become increasingly visual around the State and this is just the latest evidence of that."

According to The Boston Globe, the safety of the Cliff Walk, and specifically the part that collapsed, had been under scrutiny, especially after Superstorm Sandy washed away parts of it in 2012. A complete assessment of the entire route was performed in 2014, citing that the storm had caused $5.4 million in damage.

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