“Before” and “After” images dance in the heads of Blackstone Park Conservancy (BPC) volunteers on a muggy September day in the Blackstone Park Conservation District. They are here to inspect the woodland for damaged plants and trails and to plan maintenance sessions.
The volunteers see much work to do: plants to replace, trails to refresh, etc. But what a long way the center section has come! Thanks to BPC supporters, to the Parks Department and to several environmental agencies, rain brightens the green everywhere–there is so much more than there was a few years ago.
One gasps in dismay at blueberry bushes stripped bare by the winter moth and viburnums damaged by the drought. And yet, several thousand native plants installed in 2014 and 2015 by the Conservancy with Coastal Resource Management Council habitat grants and supporters’ donations now fill once-empty spaces throughout the plateau and along the Boathouse Trail. Losses of about one percent–not so bad! Most of the new viburnums, sweet pepper bushes, asters, and grasses have flourished, thanks in part to BPC-funded watering.
Walking the trails refurbished with Department of Environmental Management grants over the past two years, longtime Conservancy volunteers recall what they used to be like. “There was a gully there,” exclaims Don Cordner, pointing to a slope now covered with green. He and Park Committee Chair Carrie Drake proceed to figure out next steps for restoring a nearby patch of bare soil beaten down by people walking off the trail.
For the trails now showing sand again, the volunteers note that masses of chips will be needed to replace those put down in 2014. “Let’s ask the Parks Department if they can send over a bobcat to spread the chips—once we find them,” suggests Carrie.
The volunteers will ask the Appalachian Mountain Club to help restore some of the split rail fencing they built years ago. But the Conservancy may have to pay for 30 or 40 replacement plants. Carrie also lists numerous “tidying-up” chores that can be done in an evening Park Keeping gathering planned for September 15th. She thinks another work session may be needed as well.
RISD Freshmen in the Park
In September, for the second year in a row, Rhode Island School of Design newcomers showed up to help BPC volunteers prepare play areas for small children. Their assignment was twofold: First, find sticks and invasive Japanese knotweed stalks by York Pond, and repair/embellish the temporary fence for the “Children’s Circle” just inside the woods behind Blackstone Field; second, create a structure out of found materials where small children might play.
Project leader Elena Riverstone and Education Committee Chair Rick Richards explained to the artists-in-training that the Conservation District is a semi-wild park where nature holds sway with minimal incursions by people. No permanent structures may be built, and plants and trees are interfered with only so far as safety requires. Only twine can be used for fastening.
They met the challenge with gusto. Last year’s creation was a teepee. This year the freshmen come up with a ship complete with a flag woven with strips of the bamboo-like Knotweed.
BirdWalk! Join Lauren Parmelee from the Audubon Society for a bird walk at Blackstone Park. This walk is aimed at people who want to learn about birds and bird watching but may not have much experience. The fall migration will be in progress, so there should be lots of birds in the woods. Birds are early risers, and so are we for this event. Children are welcome, bring binoculars and dress for the weather. Rain date October 23rd. At Blackstone Field, across from the Narragansett Boat Club (2 River Road/aka River Drive, Providence, RI 02906).
The International Coastal Cleanup is the world’s largest volunteer effort for our ocean and waterways. People all over the world remove trash from the shores and document what they find. The data is compiled and published in an annual global report on marine debris by the Ocean Conservancy. Save The Bay coordinates the Rhode Island cleanup effort.
Meet at 296 Irving Avenue and River Drive (aka River Road), Providence, RI 02906. Please dress in clothes you don’t mind getting a little dirty, and wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes. We will provide trash bags and disposable gloves. Please feel free to bring your own work gloves if you have them, and your own reusable bottle of water.
Join volunteers from the Blackstone Parks Conservancy as we spread woodchips, fix fences, and pull invasive plants. It’s a light workout, and a surprising amount of fun. Meet near the kiosk in the center section, by Parkside Road and East Orchard Avenue, Providence, RI 02906.
Enjoy a boat ride up the Seekonk River and learn about the fish, birds and other wildlife that live in, on, and near the river. This event is co-hosted by the Blackstone Parks Conservancy and Save the Bay. Board boat at 10:00, 10:40 or 11:20. Seating is first come first serve so arrive early! Join us at the Narragansett Boat Club dock (2 River Road, near Angell Street, Providence, RI 02906).