When you don’t have much money or many volunteers, what do you do about the erosion and invasive plants steadily nibbling away at the Blackstone parks? If you’re the Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC), you don’t try to eliminate these challenges–which no one could do–but to manage them while balancing the needs of the parks with the desire of visitors to enjoy them.
Protecting the Conservation District
The BPC tries to use limited resources as strategically as possible, taking small steps. This year the Park Committee plans several projects near York Pond and on Angell Street to strengthen vulnerable edges of the 45-acre semi-wild Blackstone Park.
Tall plants, many of them invasive with sharp thorns, block the view of York Pond on the south side, where an inviting dirt road runs straight back from the Seekonk River toward the woods. To make the pond more accessible, the BPC is planning to mow a path to the edge. With luck, it might even be possible to purchase a bench for that spot next year.
A small America the Beautiful grant enabled us to hire landscape architect Sarah Bradford to map out the best path and devise ways to combat erosion at the top of the York Pond steps.
For several years, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has enabled the BPC hire people to remove invasive plants. This year, another small grant will underwrite tackling greedy mugwort and bittersweet plants beside the pond.
Quote of the month: from Harold Doran, a stalwart volunteer who stops at the pond on the way to work: “If you sit there a while you don’t see anything; if you sit there a while longer, you see everything.”
Angell Street Success
The habitat planting on Angell Street, a trove of native plants installed with the supervision of Hope Leeson at the Rhode Island Natural History Survey is flourishing under the care of BPC volunteers. Please look at the website below where a small crowdsourcing campaign is raising money to upgrade the fence.
Latin Jazz, Salsa, our 2nd Boulevard Concert, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, August 1st at 6pm due to expected inclement weather.
Sixty-five students between 6thand 12thgrades at Lincoln and Wheeler schools worked on two gorgeous back-to-back days in May to spruce up Blackstone Park Conservation District. This is not astonishing, as various schools give a few hours every year to the park overlooking the Seekonk River. What is astonishing is how much they accomplished.
After a long winter the heavily used Park is in great need of attention, not only to tidy up, but also to repair. The wood chips topping the trails need replacing, worn water bars need to be cleaned out or replaced, young or fragile plants to be weeded, and damaged fencing to be repaired. Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) wheelbarrows, some steered by grinning youngsters not much taller than the barrow, ferried enormous quantities of chips that had been delivered to the site by the Parks Department.
Kids from each school divided into groups for different projects and went at them with zest. Supervising teachers, possibly referring to themselves as well as the children, noted that it was good to get outdoors at exam time and do physical work.
All the projects are in some way important for stabilizing slopes of the steep-sided park. Weeding protects the plants that hold the soil in place. Wood chips decompose, softening hard-packed trails and making them more porous so rain can soak in where it falls instead of rushing downhill and carrying soil with it. Water bars steer surges of stormwater off to the side, where it can be more readily absorbed. And fencing protects the plants that protect the soil that holds the park together.
The thought occurs that the Conservancy could not manage Blackstone Park without the kids and adults who come for an annual cleanup or for a regular Park Keeping event. The latter takes place once a month between work and supper so that people can drop by for an hour or so, get a light workout and a sense of accomplishment.
These are difficult times for recruiting and retaining volunteers, as many people feel they are too busy to give time. But it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time—as little as two hours a year for one-time projects or two-four hours a month for ongoing ones. Check out the website below for these and other opportunities such as concerts and educational programs.
Big Band (conducted by Wendy Klein)
Combo (conducted by Ron Sanfilippo)
At Blackstone Field (http://tinyurl.com/hv4l94t), across from the Narragansett Boat Club (2 River Road, Providence, RI 02906)
Our resident bird expert is back! During this walk, we will explore Blackstone Park in search of migrant songbirds and local breeders including warblers, vireos, tanagers, grosbeaks and flycatchers. Warblers we may see include Yellow, Black-and-white, Yellow-rumped and Northern Parula and we may even be lucky enough to come across a rare migrant such as a Cape May Warbler. While warblers are often the highlight of spring migration, species such as Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Great Crested Flycatcher and Eastern Wood-Pewee utilize these important green spaces as well.
Bring your binoculars, comfortable shoes and questions as we take a leisurely stroll and learn about the importance of Blackstone Park and the many species that pass through. We will meet at the Blackstone Park kiosk, Parkside Rd & E Orchard Avenue, Providence, RI 02906.