Blackstone Parks Conservancy

IMG_1262The first Earth Day went perfectly.  A team from Eastside Marketplace joined with two Conservancy volunteers on April 22, Earth Day.  On a sunny morning, the group cleaned the riverbank and roadside from the Narragansett Boat Club nearly to the Henderson Bridge. The team also swept through the south section of Blackstone Park collecting scattered litter.  Almost 20 trash bags were loaded with debris, including broken glass, dozens of plastic bottles and a half-filled jug of motor oil.  During a break ducks and swans floated by as the store mamager, Ray Lorenzo, shared water and delicious cookies from their bakery. Even better, the Eastside Marketplace team shared their plans to make this cleanup an annual event!  Volunteer events such as this accomplish an enormous amount; we truly appreciate and need them.

Then there was the second Earth Day a few days later.  Timed for the weekend as part of the city-wide Earth Day Spring Cleaning (see for more details), this April 26 event coincided with a cold steady rain.  Fun events aimed at teaching children about recycling and impacts of littering were cancelled.  But the River Road Clean-up was the silver lining to this stormy cloud.  Several regulars and a few brave newcomers combed the riverside north of River Field and cleared choking debris from York Pond.  Plastic bottles, fishing line, cigarette butts and packages, and much more were removed from the waterside.  Many thanks to these adults and children who were not deterred by a little New England weather!

We have several other family-oriented events scheduled in Blackstone Park and hope to run another concert series on Blackstone Boulevard.  There are many more chances to enjoy your East Side parks in 2014 and beyond – check our events calendar for dates and updates.


As many had long feared, winter moths finally arrived in Providence this spring, attacking the woodlands in Blackstone Park Conservation District and Neutaconkanut Hill with voracious appetites and leaving countless leaves perforated. City Forester Doug Still says it’s too late to do anything about the infestation this year, but next winter he will be advising homeowners on how to protect street and yard trees. Street and yard trees on properties close to the parks were also hard hit.

Here is a description by URI’s Heather Faubert of efforts to control winter moth in Rhode Island:

We invite you to attend “Music in the Park” a family event with Lindsay Meehan. Lindsay Meehan founded Music for Children in Rhode Island in 2011. She teaches Music for Children at Moses Brown and at Lincoln’s Little School and performs throughout the state.

This event is part of a series of events offered by the Blackstone Parks Conservancy with support from the Partnership for Providence Parks.

Join us on Saturday May 31 at 10:00AM-noon in the Field on River Road (across from the Narragansett Boat Club).  GPS:  41°49’58.8″N 71°22’40.9″W

Rain date is Sunday June 1, 2014 at 10:00AM-noon.

Families are encouraged to bring a blanket.


Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Amateur photographer John Balletto recently spotted this Northern Flicker  in the Blackstone Park Conservation District. A type of woodpecker, the flicker hunts for food on the ground. If you hear a drumming sound, it may be him communicating with others of his kind.

Can It Happen Here?

The catastrophic mudslide in Washington State in March brought to mind the far smaller one that slumped into the Seekonk River behind Butler Hospital a few decades ago. The fanned out sand you can see in aerial photographs fortunately killed no one. But it demonstrated the vulnerability to collapse of the bluffs in the coastal greenway that stretches from Blackstone Park Conservation District (BPCD) through Butler Hospital and Swan Point Cemetery.

Can it happen here? Some fear it will. The major erosion control project the Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) is starting this spring in the popular center section with state funding seems especially timely. The steady trickle of topsoil and sand down from the glacial outwash bluffs onto the River Road sidewalk is disquieting. Many widening gullies and heavily leaning trees with increasingly exposed roots suggest growing instability.

Rhode Island citizens have voted to support outdoor space that people can safely enjoy. When the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMC) recently awarded grants to Blackstone Parks Conservancy  to work with the Providence Parks Department to upgrade the eroding trails in the BPCD, they threw meaningful support to this rare urban woodland. Perhaps not a minute too soon.

BPC has long worked with the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), the Parks Department, and lately with Friends of Blackstone Woods to stem the loss of stabilizing plants and soil by hauling chips onto trails and installing waterbars to keep chips in place. Considerable effort by volunteers slowed the runoff somewhat–but not enough to get ahead of the storms. Now the DEM and CRMC grants and our volunteers can enable a foothold by upgrading more trails in the center section, with partial restoration of native vegetation beside the trails keeping them viable for a time.

No one wants to hear that a place where they love to walk is fragile. But high-intensity storms and heavy foot traffic are undeniably making Blackstone woodland prone to more erosion.

Solutions may not be easy–even the parts of the plateau that appear level actually slope downhill–but they are feasible.

When people walk and run outside the log trail edges, they extend the compaction problem, destroying the plants that help keep leaf litter and topsoil in place. If people want the park to be healthy and welcoming for years go come, more protection is needed.

Visitors need to stay on trails in order to protect the woodland floor. At the same time, the trails need to become more absorbent. That’s where more woodchips, waterbars and brakes can make a difference.

Fences can seem alien in a beautiful semi-wild place like the Conservation District. But according to foresters, botanists, engineers, trail specialists, and park managers who care about the Blackstone Park Conservation District, some temporary fencing is necessary.

The split rail fence built by AMC and BPC volunteers with DEM-funded materials a few years ago above the vulnerable east bluff in the central section seemed raw and out of place at first. But with weathering it came to look as if it belonged. And the space between fence and bluff that had been trampled bare soon filled with grasses and wildflowers as well as tiny saplings.

The story of the eastern bluff shows what can happen when people give Nature a chance to regenerate.

The trail project will inconvenience visitors to the park for a few weeks this spring. Some trails in the center section will be temporarily closed while contractors operate heavy machinery. Please support our vision: healthy urban green space for all.


Jane Peterson