On the Boulevard
By the end of June, after a dry spring, things were looking up on the Boulevard. A fresh mowing had left the grass looking greener and thicker than it had for some time. And trees that had been nearly stripped bare in May by winter moth caterpillars were sending out new leaves.
The Boulevard Park owed its improved appearance not only to the rain, but also to the Park Department’s (PD) mowing it somewhat higher than in the past. Though many homeowners and landscapers want lawns to look like putting greens, low mowing is harmful to the grass. Root length reflects the length of the grass, so to grow roots long enough to weather dry periods, it must be cut higher—3 inches ideally. Honoring the science as much as its machines will allow, the PD is mowing to 2 ½ inches.
As for the trees, on reconnaissance in early June City Forester Doug Still and two BPC board members counted 126 that were severely damaged. Some were so altered that he had to jump out of the car to get a closer look in order to identify them. He would like to get these badly damaged trees sprayed next March, but there is no money for spraying in the PD budget. Once the forester receives cost estimates from private contractors, the Conservancy will attempt to raise the funds.
The sight of new leaves is of course encouraging, but it is not cause for rejoicing. This emergency renewal depletes the trees’ reserves and multiple years of this can weaken them. Spraying can interfere with the moths’ regeneration, as neighboring Swan Point Cemetery has demonstrated. But while practical in a limited area it is impossible to do effectively in a woodland. The coastal greenway of which the Blackstone Park Conservation District (BPCD) is part was hit harder than any other part of Providence this year.
Also in June, the Trolley Shelter garden received a much-needed intervention by Swan Point’s chief horticulturist Kelly Perry and her crew. Swan Point, a longtime friend of the Boulevard, provided 200 gallons of water and set up the garden for the summer with thorough weeding and mulching.
Upgrading the Conservation District
Restoration of trails and habitat in the center section of the BPCD was expanded this spring with a second grant from the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC). Terracing and planting of the gully running from the ridge of the plateau near Angell Street down toward River Road was designed and coordinated by BPC volunteers.
The transformation of this slope and much of the plateau shows how volunteer organizations working with the City and environmental agencies can work with nature, instead of against it, to keep slopes from sliding into the river. Volunteer support and thoughtful engagement by PD and state employees in the CRMC and DEM (Department of Environmental Management) were all crucial to the projects’ success.
Another partnership, this time with US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), is continuing to expand educational resources in the coastal woodland. A junior at SUNY in New York, Amanda Tomasello, will host a weekly science table (Fridays 10:30-noon till the end of August) to engage visiting families on a wide range of science topics related to life in the woodland.
“She can go with kids along the trail to look for birds and many other things,” says April Alix, Amanda’s supervisor and coordinator of the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership and the Rhode Island National Refuge Complex. There are many possibilities, including a pollinator walk, invasive species lessons, and identifying trees.
AS YOU LIKE IT
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Rebecca Maxfield