Blackstone Parks Conservancy

Shifting Gears for 2017

Mid-winter is a time to dream of new green leaves unfolding in the Blackstone parks and the mountain laurel lighting up the woods like so many giant paper lanterns. And to figure out how the Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) can best serve the parks and the thousands who will use them in 2017.

Like many non-profit organizations, the BPC happily noticed a bump in contributions last fall. And with this small spike came new members and more expressions of support than usual. Much appreciated notes on contribution envelopes usually say things like “Keep up the good work,” or “You’re doing a great job!” But one response to our fall appeal stood out from the rest: “Now is the time for us all to pull together!”

The boost couldn’t have come at a better time. While many loyal members consistently support the BPC’s care of the two Blackstone parks, some friends have moved away in recent years and our membership numbers have declined slightly when we need them to be rising.

Despite the efforts of our volunteers to reach out, far too many Providence residents–even close neighbors and others who frequently walk or run in one or both parks—do not know who it is that adds new trees and plants to the Boulevard and waters them. Nor do they realize who refurbishes the trails in the Blackstone Park Conservation District and replaces the plants that have died over the winter.

The BPC supported by our members does all of the above and much more in collaboration with an overextended Parks Department charged with looking after more than 100 city parks. And dwindling resources. Rhode Island’s environmental agencies also provide crucial assistance, especially in addressing stormwater and erosion challenges in the heavily used Conservation District.

But all this work is not enough. To do justice to the parks, before the busy spring-summer-fall season begins the BPC needs to beef up its membership and its cadre of volunteers in order to catch up with invasive plant species and to avoid having to cut back our concerts and popular education programs. Reversing attrition challenges is high on our agenda.

Meanwhile, there is more to do to improve the stability of the parks in the face of erratic rainfall. Like environmentalists everywhere, we are scrambling to build resilience into our precious green spaces. Park Committee Chair Carrie Drake and member Margaret Brookner and City Forester Doug Still brought home some useful ideas along these lines from the January workshop organized by the U.S. Forest Service in Boston.

On February eighth this year the temperature hit 60 degrees. And the next day came a blizzard with 25 degrees. New Englanders are accustomed to weather swings, but not to the extremes we are now seeing. Storm surges require that we spend more time and money strengthening paths and trails, and drought has made it essential to water the boulevard and new plants in the woods more often than in the past.

Plans for 2017

This month the newly revived Boulevard Committee is figuring out how to manage pruning, watering, and mulching in 2017, as well a tree inventory and solutions for the worn center path.

The Park Committee will continue the popular Park Keeping sessions and work on badly eroded areas and invasive plant removal and replacement projects.

How many educational programs and concerts take place will depend on new volunteers signing up with the Education Committee. To participate, please contact the BPC (see below).

And please remember to send your Eastside Marketplace receipts to the Conservancy.

Jane Peterson