As stewards of Blackstone Boulevard and the Blackstone Park Conservation District, the Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) endorses the vision advanced by the Seekonk Riverbank Revitalization Alliance (SRRA) to reconfigure the neglected stretch of roadway and riverbank that extends from Henderson Bridge in the south to the northern tip of Gulf Avenue.
The Seekonk River and riverbank, which runs along the eastern edge of Blackstone Park, are important to the BPC. And the SRRA’s vision aligns with the BPC’s mission to do all we can to ensure the Park’s ecological health, which in turn affects the SRRA area. Our efforts to strengthen under story plants and repair trails not only enhance plant diversity and wildlife, they also lead to reduced stormwater runoff and hence improve water quality of the river.
The riverfront design accomplishes many objectives. In addition to repairing the damage done to the riverbank by off-road parking and to restoring the riverbank to ecological health, this plan creates a dedicated pedestrian/bicycle path along the shore, calms traffic, creates distributed parking, and provides safe access to–and onto–the Seekonk. All of these features can be explored in depth in the SRRA’s Seekonk River Design Book, which is available here.
We endorse this design enthusiastically as it complements the BPC’s mission in several ways. Environmentally, the SRRA design enhances the Conservation District by providing well-designed planting areas along the river’s edge, and providing ways to slow and filter the stormwater that now erodes the roadway and pollutes the Seekonk River.
By creating a safer environment for people to enjoy the Seekonk shoreline, whether for bird watching, fishing, walking and biking, contemplation, or other purposes, the SRRA design strengthens the Park as well. The traffic-calming features of the plan are especially welcome: they provide a calmer environment for the many programs for community children and adults that we run in the field opposite the Narragansett Boat Club. Calmer traffic means a higher level of safety for everyone enjoying the park and the shoreline.
We also applaud the open and transparent three-year public outreach and community-led design process that led to the vision. Along with dozens of community groups, advocacy non-profits, residents, business owners, and city and state staff, the BPC participated as a stakeholder in the community visioning.
In our view, this plan seeks the best possible balance between the many competing purposes our parks serve by rebalancing how the Conservation District and shoreline are used to favor activities that put people in direct contact with nature. This, we believe, is the purpose of our parks and open space.