Writing in December for January publication, we have no idea what the deep winter will bring. Seven-foot icicles? Slush? But whatever the weather, the leafless months are the Blackstone Parks Conservancy’s (BPC) chance to complete plans for finishing our Blackstone Boulevard tree inventory and imagine new projects to help us keep these parks thriving.
So let’s linger a while in December–a season for expressing gratitude and for giving. Gratitude seems an especially good state of mind to be in at this time.
At the BPC we are grateful for our volunteers and other supporters, the people who help to sustain the Blackstone parks. As one new volunteer observed at a Park Keeping event early in the month, we need our community now more than ever. And community is so much what these parks are about.
“It’s about giving back,” says Julia Frankel, explaining why she has shown up to help out in the Blackstone Park Conservation District overlooking the Seekonk River on a bright Saturday morning in early December. In this, the final Park Keeping session of the year, she and several others are filling wheelbarrows with woodchips supplied by the Parks Department and spreading them in a heavily used section of the Park. Julia likes to run on the Boulevard, and it makes sense to her that she should somehow participate in their upkeep.
Several other people arrive, including a few who are relatively new to Providence and one who grew up here. They range in age from two to 77. The two-year-old receives a rake to play with while her parents spread chips. Other volunteers stroll back into the woods to the northeastern bluff to repair the temporary snow fences that protect plants that were installed with grants written and managed by BPC volunteers.
If you like being out of doors and enjoy feeling useful to boot, there will be many chances to join Park Keeping events in 2017. They last an hour and a half or two and they are fun. They also provide a chance to meet like-minded people.
In addition to volunteers, which include children and teachers from several schools, and in addition to the Providence Parks Department—our dependable partners without whom we couldn’t function–we are grateful to the environmental agencies that have helped us pull our parks back from the incursions of stormwater runoff and heavy use as well as invasive plants. The Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) have helped us to upgrade trails and restore under story in the center section woodland. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is supporting invasive plant removal.
We thank the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) for bringing expertise to help with fence and step repair. And we could never have come so far without our generous mentors at Save the Bay, the Woonasquatucket Watershed Council, and Neutaconkanut Park, to name but a few.
Finally, we are grateful for the Blackstone parks. We honor the Providence city leaders who had the foresight to set aside parkland in perpetuity. Like us, they lived through times of enormous change and thought ahead. Like them, we are all giving to future generations.
As stewards of Blackstone Boulevard and the Blackstone Park Conservation District, the Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) endorses the vision advanced by the Seekonk Riverbank Revitalization Alliance (SRRA) to reconfigure the neglected stretch of roadway and riverbank that extends from Henderson Bridge in the south to the northern tip of Gulf Avenue.
The Seekonk River and riverbank, which runs along the eastern edge of Blackstone Park, are important to the BPC. And the SRRA’s vision aligns with the BPC’s mission to do all we can to ensure the Park’s ecological health, which in turn affects the SRRA area. Our efforts to strengthen under story plants and repair trails not only enhance plant diversity and wildlife, they also lead to reduced stormwater runoff and hence improve water quality of the river.
The riverfront design accomplishes many objectives. In addition to repairing the damage done to the riverbank by off-road parking and to restoring the riverbank to ecological health, this plan creates a dedicated pedestrian/bicycle path along the shore, calms traffic, creates distributed parking, and provides safe access to–and onto–the Seekonk. All of these features can be explored in depth in the SRRA’s Seekonk River Design Book, which is available here.
We endorse this design enthusiastically as it complements the BPC’s mission in several ways. Environmentally, the SRRA design enhances the Conservation District by providing well-designed planting areas along the river’s edge, and providing ways to slow and filter the stormwater that now erodes the roadway and pollutes the Seekonk River.
By creating a safer environment for people to enjoy the Seekonk shoreline, whether for bird watching, fishing, walking and biking, contemplation, or other purposes, the SRRA design strengthens the Park as well. The traffic-calming features of the plan are especially welcome: they provide a calmer environment for the many programs for community children and adults that we run in the field opposite the Narragansett Boat Club. Calmer traffic means a higher level of safety for everyone enjoying the park and the shoreline.
We also applaud the open and transparent three-year public outreach and community-led design process that led to the vision. Along with dozens of community groups, advocacy non-profits, residents, business owners, and city and state staff, the BPC participated as a stakeholder in the community visioning.
In our view, this plan seeks the best possible balance between the many competing purposes our parks serve by rebalancing how the Conservation District and shoreline are used to favor activities that put people in direct contact with nature. This, we believe, is the purpose of our parks and open space.
From Leah Hamburger, Director of Sustainability at the City of Providence:
I’m excited to announce that the City of Providence is hiring a Building Energy Advisor in the Office of Sustainability: https://www.providenceri.com/CityJobs/position.php?id=779 This new position is made possible by our participation in the City Energy Project. Please post and share widely! Feel free to send folks my way if they have any questions.