Blacktone Parks Conservancy

When you see the photograph of little girls hugging a large tree in the Blackstone Parks Conservation District, one thing is obvious: “They get it.” No one has to tell them how precious and exciting nature is.

This Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) outing of pre-schoolers to the park overlooking the Upper Narragansett Bay, one of many programs designed to expose children and adults of all ages to the delights contained in these parks, took place in early summer. The last warm-weather program was in early November.

Many people explore the Conservation District in their own ways. A mother who regularly brings her three pre-adolescent children to explore the Park, studied grubs living under a log one day last fall, then carefully rolled it back to its original position. Birders come often, as do walkers and runners. Occasionally artists will set up easels at York Pond.

For the Blackstone parks to thrive, more people need to embrace them, which can begin with asking questions. Much that has happened and is happening in the woods and water is hidden from view.

Extraordinary discoveries pertaining to the complexity of life may be in the offing. The BPC hopes that some of the children exposed to nature in these parks will eventually help find answers to questions such as: What happened in here millennia ago? How was this land used in the 1700s and 1800s? What is happening now under the surface? Perhaps they will help crack the secrets of the new frontier, the micro-biome. By the time they grow up, scientists may know if it’s true that groups of trees communicate and protect each other.

As humans always have, we depend on nature for survival. But now exploitation of resources is out of balance. Will today’s children help right that imbalance?

The BPC is always exploring ideas for the future and experimenting with ways to protect fragile land—and thus the bay–from the effects of erosion. Invasive plant species are receiving special attention as well.

We know surprisingly little about the land where Blackstone Park sits. We do know that most of the ancient forests of Rhode Island were cut down in early Colonial days and shipped to England. Thus little old-growth forest remains. But we don’t yet know what Moses Brown saw while riding out from his country house (at what would later become Wayland Square).

Learning more about the use of Moses Brown’s land could affect our understanding of the small part of it that was deeded to the City as parkland in 1866. These are questions we hope one day to be able to answer with the help of experts able to analyze former land use or researchers willing to explore records at the Rhode Island Historical Society.

One thing we do know is that all our questions start with wonder–wonder and a kind of delight in the two parks that have been passed down to Providence over more than 150 years, public spaces that the Blackstone Parks Conservancy has the honor to help the Providence Parks Department manage. If we ever need reminding, all we need do is to watch the children in the woods.

Jane Peterson