Blackstone Parks Conservancy

Doing and Undoing

On Thursday September 29th,, at midday, seven volunteers from AIPSO Company in Johnston were hard at work repairing damage inflicted by nature and humans in the center section of the Blackstone Park Conservation District high above the Seekonk River. Such maintenance is a normal part of Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) volunteers’ job, which is—with the Providence Parks Department—to keep the Blackstone parks in good fettle for thousands of visitors to enjoy.

The AIPSO volunteers said they enjoy working outdoors and, indeed, they went at fence mending and stake pounding and weeding out invasive wisteria with gusto. They also hoed out dirt that had accumulated above water bars, an important step in reducing the erosion that depletes the park. Water bars shunt the streams that appear on trails during storms off to one side to seep into thirsty soil.

A walker passing by the fence fixers remarks, “This place is a godsend!” Which prompts Jim, the AIPSO team leader, who grew up on a farm, to add that his father was astonished to find a 45-acre semi-wild park in the city.

Like the 120 Moses Browns students who showed up in early September to tackle invasive plant species, the AIPSO volunteers were taking a leap of faith, saying, in effect, ‘This is worth my precious time because it matters’.

As for Moses Brown, this was the second year in a row that upper classmen gave their service day to Blackstone Park, this time sharing the wealth with Neutaconkanut Hill, Blackstone’s sister park on the western side of the city. Spreading out in small groups led by teachers and BPC volunteers, the students ignored the wilting heat and humidity to go after the invasive plants that threaten to overwhelm some of the Park’s native plants. The latter are important to the ecology here.

Such events supplement the work of science teachers, who arm the students with folders packed with information. Adults, too, pick up important facts: how fencing is needed to prevent trampling of plants, how plants are essential to hold the highly erodable soil and to nurture pollinators.

On September 29th on the riverfront below, at the same time AIPSO volunteers were on their knees pounding in stakes up on the plateau, a Massachusetts woman with a conservation license plate on her Prius was stuffing her car with armloads of asters and goldenrod from the woods by York Pond. An alarmed park visitor who had come to watch birds and photograph bees snapped pictures of the thief and her license plate, which the Conservancy was advised to pass on to local police.

The problem with removing plants from the Conservation District is that, while great progress has been made in the last few years in populating bare soil with native plants, much remains to be done. Backed by the Department of Environmental Management and the Coastal Resources Management Council, the BPC is encouraging goldenrod and asters to spread in areas where volunteers have recently removed invasive plants. At a time when bee populations are suffering, it may be that every aster counts.

If you would like to volunteer to help keep the parks clean and healthy, and to support native plants, please contact us at the website below. It takes few to cause harm, and many more to make the parks whole again.

Jane Peterson