Blacktone Parks Conservancy

Groans often accompany the thought of attending an annual meeting—we all know what a yawn they can be. But the annual meetings of the Blackstone Parks Conservancy are different. Here are five reasons to find an hour and a half for the upcoming BPC get-together March 11:

1. We start with a brief party and you are our guests. Sure, this is serious business, but we are also out to celebrate the good year that was 2013 and to thank the supporters and volunteers on whom we depend.

2. BPC reports are short and to the point, and our speakers are known to be interesting. Architectural historian Mack Woodward engaged the audience in a lively discussion last March. This year’s keynoter, historian Morgan Grefe, is executive director of the Rhode Island Historical Society. She, too, has a reputation as a lively speaker. Morgan’s field is American history. And fortunately for us, she is keen about her challenge: to describe the Blackstone parks in the context of the era in which they were created. The late 19th and early 20th centuries were times of great change in Providence. Thanks to Sarah Gleason and others we know a fair amount about the early days of Blackstone Boulevard, now on the National Register. But we have found relatively little information about the Wayland Square area (formerly the country estate of Moses Brown) and the early years of Blackstone Park overlooking the Seekonk River.

3. You will be able to actually hear Morgan and our brief reports. We no longer have to compete with restaurant noise as in two earlier meetings.

4. We meet at Lippitt House, built in 1865, one year before Blackstone Park was created. If you’ve never been inside the mansion, you can explore the first floor of this beautifully restored renaissance revival mansion freely. Museum personnel are on hand to answer questions. If you already know the place, you can simply bask in its exquisite craftsmanship.

5. You can meet the people behind the list of names of board members and tell them what you think should be done for our parks. We welcome this chance to see old friends and to meet new people. To be sure, we are proud of our role as partner with the City Parks Department managing the Blackstone Boulevard Park and the Blackstone Park Conservation District. But we know we can do better. Please let us hear your ideas for making this happen.

In 2014 we will seek to consolidate the gains of the last few years and build a platform for thriving in the years to come. As protector of two of Providence’s oldest parks, the Conservancy will continue to:

1. Strengthen bonds with friends such as Save the Bay and the Audubon Society and science consultants, thus continuing to enhance our effectiveness as park supporters. This last year we began working with supporters of the Paterson Playground, nestled in a corner of the Conservation District. Our new collaboration with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)–for which we have the Partnership for Providence Parks to thank–exemplifies the potential for tapping into new resources.

2. Strive toward wise stewardship. This means renewing efforts to learn how best to manage stormwater runoff and erosion and how to control invasive species, two major challenges. In 2013, BPC board members participated in a new group formed to raise awareness of stormwater issues. Some of us also took the URI course in invasive plant management. This spring we will launch implementation of the DEM-RIDOT trails grant (about which more in coming months). We are also helping the Parks Department update the path down the middle of the Boulevard.

3. Expand our education outreach to children and adults, working with local schools, neighbors, and parents. We depend heavily on residents of the East Side of Providence, but like our sister park, historic Neutakonkanut Hill, we also depend on Providence and Pawtucket residents elsewhere as well as non-residents who value the taste of nature that our two conservancies offer.

4. Recruit more help from volunteers with various skills. We especially need help with volunteer management and publicity. We also need hands-on assistance with invasive plant management. All in the service of Healthy Urban Green Space for All.

Jane Peterson