“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).
As far as the two Blackstone parks have come in the last decade, with dramatic physical upgrades and program expansions in both, more needs to be done to keep their place as destination parks. Right now Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) volunteers are figuring out ways to involve more city residents in their care and in the educational programs so vital to their future.
Astonishingly, many people still do not know that the parks are as clean and healthy as they are thanks to relatively small numbers of Conservancy volunteers working closely with the Department of Providence Parks and Recreation. Some don’t even know that the Blackstone Park Conservation District overlooking the Seekonk River belongs to them. Moreover, most people have little idea of the mounting challenges created by use and climate change, not to mention the program opportunities foregone for lack of volunteers to help run them.
In the coming months we at the Conservancy will try to expand a relatively small core of loyal supporters by reaching more of the thousands of people who benefit from these historic parks without realizing what a difference even a little bit of help could make.
In the meantime, while you are thinking about how you can participate, please continue to enjoy our late-summer programs: the Trolley Shelter concerts expertly managed by Gale Aronson that have again drawn hundreds to each performance; and the many enjoyable educational events organized by the tiny BPC Education Committee (see Events below). Not to mention walking and running on the Boulevard path and Park trails above the Seekonk River. If we succeed in expanding our base as we hope to, the next years will be the best ever.
Come learn how Native Americans built their houses! There will be a demonstration of how to build a weetu by a team from the Tomquag Museum. You can build your own weetu as you learn the building techniques employed for thousands of years before Europeans arrived in this area. Listen as Lorén Spears talks about Northeast Native American culture and illustrates it with stories, songs, games, and dance. It is free and open to the public. At Blackstone Field, across from the Narragansetts Boat Club (2 River Drive aka River Road, Providence, RI 02906).