Writing in December for January publication, we have no idea what the deep winter will bring. Seven-foot icicles? Slush? But whatever the weather, the leafless months are the Blackstone Parks Conservancy’s (BPC) chance to complete plans for finishing our Blackstone Boulevard tree inventory and imagine new projects to help us keep these parks thriving.
So let’s linger a while in December–a season for expressing gratitude and for giving. Gratitude seems an especially good state of mind to be in at this time.
At the BPC we are grateful for our volunteers and other supporters, the people who help to sustain the Blackstone parks. As one new volunteer observed at a Park Keeping event early in the month, we need our community now more than ever. And community is so much what these parks are about.
“It’s about giving back,” says Julia Frankel, explaining why she has shown up to help out in the Blackstone Park Conservation District overlooking the Seekonk River on a bright Saturday morning in early December. In this, the final Park Keeping session of the year, she and several others are filling wheelbarrows with woodchips supplied by the Parks Department and spreading them in a heavily used section of the Park. Julia likes to run on the Boulevard, and it makes sense to her that she should somehow participate in their upkeep.
Several other people arrive, including a few who are relatively new to Providence and one who grew up here. They range in age from two to 77. The two-year-old receives a rake to play with while her parents spread chips. Other volunteers stroll back into the woods to the northeastern bluff to repair the temporary snow fences that protect plants that were installed with grants written and managed by BPC volunteers.
If you like being out of doors and enjoy feeling useful to boot, there will be many chances to join Park Keeping events in 2017. They last an hour and a half or two and they are fun. They also provide a chance to meet like-minded people.
In addition to volunteers, which include children and teachers from several schools, and in addition to the Providence Parks Department—our dependable partners without whom we couldn’t function–we are grateful to the environmental agencies that have helped us pull our parks back from the incursions of stormwater runoff and heavy use as well as invasive plants. The Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) have helped us to upgrade trails and restore under story in the center section woodland. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is supporting invasive plant removal.
We thank the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) for bringing expertise to help with fence and step repair. And we could never have come so far without our generous mentors at Save the Bay, the Woonasquatucket Watershed Council, and Neutaconkanut Park, to name but a few.
Finally, we are grateful for the Blackstone parks. We honor the Providence city leaders who had the foresight to set aside parkland in perpetuity. Like us, they lived through times of enormous change and thought ahead. Like them, we are all giving to future generations.