Blackstone Parks Conservancy

Back to Our Roots

By Jane Peterson


The Boulevard

Emerging from a winter that was more mud than ice—more like three months of March–the path down the middle of Blackstone Boulevard needs rescuing, much as it did after a similar winter in 1998. Only this time, thanks to longstanding teamwork between the City Parks Department and the Blackstone Parks Conservancy, we’re starting from a better place than we were then.

Fourteen years ago, people walking or running on the boulevard were tripping over roots and rocks, and the complaints poured in. Parks Department landscape architect Fred Holman said that in places it was almost like “running in a ditch.” Except for some grading and topping with sand in 1984, the path had been in decline ever since the tracks’ removal following the trolley’s last run in 1948. There were so many dead and dying trees, according to an arborist called in by the Conservancy’s precursor, the Blackstone Park Improvement Association (BPIA), the park was doomed to keep deteriorating without dramatic intervention.

“That’s when we decided,” recalls then BPIA president Bob Murphy, “why don’t we try to stop the bleeding and make it better?” Then Councilwoman Rita Williams went after public funding for the path (and York Pond), the Parks Department came up with drainage plans and the idea of using stone dust to replace the soggy sand and clay mixture then commonly employed, and the BPIA opted to upgrade the natural setting. While the city took on the path, the conservancy began raising money for new benches to replace splintery ones and trees to fill the large gaps left by fallen ones.

Though people today remark that the boulevard looks better than ever, anyone who walks or jogs on the path notices the mire that’s developed in certain spots. There are far fewer such places than before, and the work beneath the surface has mostly held, but it’s time to repair those areas that puddle. With Parks Department approval, we’re exploring how best to upgrade the drainage in order to prevent those wet spots and we’re asking for estimates.

BPC will now endeavor to raise the funds through endowments and grants, and we will undoubtedly call upon the community for the best methods and materials. Please send any suggestions for the path and other projects to our web site.


The Blackstone Park Conservation District

In the Conservation District as well, we’ll be concentrating on muddy paths suffering from erosion, which would be almost impossible to do were it not for the Appalachian Mountain Club. Our partnership began in 1998, when Blackstone Park badly needed attention. Chris Shafer, Chairman of the AMC Trails Committee, offered to help the Friends of Blackstone Park and Boulevard, led by Anna Browder and Margaret Brookner.

This fruitful collaboration has continued to this day. The water bars and trail linings, the split rail fences protecting the bluffs, all of this work we owe to a longstanding partnership between AMC and BPC and the labor of many other volunteers.


We’re planning another year of our summer concert series, and we welcome your suggestions for performing bands and vocalists to invite.


Kindly send your East Side Market receipts to P.O. Box 603141. Last year we collected over $900 from this source alone.

Magnolia 'Galaxy"

With a boost from last week’s unseasonably warm weather, blooms are bursting forth along the Boulevard. A few shrubs and trees stand out. The Magnolia ‘Galaxy’ at Rochambeau has large dark pink to purplish flowers. In time this shrub will grow into a striking tree more than 30 feet tall. Near Freeman Street, three Magnolia stellata ‘Rosea’ are blooming. Also known as Pink Star Magnolia, they have light-pink flowers with many thin petals. The blooms are sensitive to frost, and may turn brown due to the cold March nights.


Light pink blossoms cover the Autumn Blooming Higan Cherry trees (Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’) at the Trolley Shelter. Stay tuned, these trees have the delightful habit of producing another set of flowers in the fall and even winter months.

If you prefer blooms closer to the ground, check out the Hellebores (magenta and white) and daffodils around the Witherby statue, the many flowering bulbs at the Trolley Shelter and around some benches, and the blue Scilla siberica in the grass near Intervale Street.

Call for Entries

Exhibition Announcement

“Through Our Eyes: Woodland and Water

The Second Annual Exhibit of Visual Art Celebrating Our Urban Natural Landscape

 Sunday June 10, 2012 from 2:00pm to 7:00pm

The Narragansett Boat Club, River Road, Providence, RI (between Angell and Irving)

Sponsored by the Blackstone Parks Conservancy, Friends of Blackstone Woods, and the Narragansett Boat Club.

This exhibit will showcase the natural beauty of Blackstone Park and Blackstone Boulevard, the greenway of which they are part, and the Seekonk River. We celebrate what is seen “through the eyes” of visitors and guardians–all those concerned with the preservation and wellbeing of the park and river.


* Work by Rhode Island visual artists (photographs, paintings, ceramics, etc.). Applicants must be over the age of 16.

* Art inspired by the natural environment, including wildlife. Of particular interest is art depicting the Blackstone Park Conservation District, Blackstone Boulevard, and the greenway along the river up to Pawtucket, including Swan Point Cemetery. No images of people, pets or gravestones.


* Three works maximum (photographs – black and white or color).

* Sizes:  2-d work:  11” x13”, including frame

3-d work:  15” x 15”

*  Labels:  Each piece must be clearly labeled on reverse side with the artist’s name, title and medium.

*  Installation:  Photos and artwork must be ready to hang on hooks. Please use wire or cord attached to each side of the frame.

*  Artists may price their work for sale. All sales transactions are the responsibility of the artist.

*  The completed Artist Agreement Form must accompany work at drop off (see attachments).


     ** PLEASE NOTE:  We must receive an email containing pictures of your submissions by April 30th. These photos are to help us plan the exhibit only and do not need to be of high quality. They should be no more than 72 dpi, and the file size should be limited to under 500k.

The email must also include:    * Your name as you wish it to appear with your work.

* The title of the work.

* The medium or materials used.

* Sale price if you wish to sell it.

* Contact information for audience (optional).

* Your telephone number (for our records only).

email your photos and information to: and


* Display space is limited, but we hope to have space to show all the works submitted.  If not, at least one piece by all artists will be on view. The exhibit sponsors reserve the right to make final selections and to exclude work that does not meet requirements.

Drop Off Time

*  Saturday, June 9th, 2:00 – 4:00, at the Narragansett Boat Club, River Rd, Providence.

Pick-Up Time

*  Sunday, June 10th, 7:00 – 8:00, at the Narragansett Boat Club.

Exhibit contacts:  Elena Riverstone, Friends of Blackstone Woods


Jane Peterson, Blackstone Parks Conservancy

(If you would like to include one of your exhibit pieces in a raffle to be held the day of the show, please contact Elena Riverstone at the email above, and we’ll provide you with more information. Thank you!)


Cornus mas

The bright yellow flowers of Cornus mas, or Cornelian Cherry Dogwood, have opened on the Boulevard. Its blooms, on leafless branches, are smaller than witchhazel. Noted for attracting wildlife, its nectar is gathered by bees, and ovoid red fruits will be enjoyed by birds when ripe in June. There’s one large, old shrub near Laurel Avenue, and two new small ones farther toward Swan point.  They have also been spotted at Upton and Mount Avenues.