Blacktone Parks Conservancy

Join us in Blackstone Park to celebrate Earth Day 2017 as part of citywide events marking this day. Rain or shine, we’ll gather on Saturday, April 22rd, from 10:00 to noon, by York Pond, where Irving Avenue, Gulf Avenue and River Road meet ( GPS: 41.835954, -71.379459).  We’ll be leading our traditional spring cleaning effort along the banks of the Seekonk River and York Pond. Bring the kids! We will provide all the clean-up supplies and some light snacks.


Toward Renewal

The heart quickens at the very thought of Spring as we huddle against sharp winds and way-below freezing temperatures in early March. And here at the Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC), we have another reason to be thrilled: the hiring of an executive director, Amy Larkin.

When it became apparent last fall that the BPC was unable to reach enough potential supporters to better fulfill our mission of caring for the Blackstone Parks, the board voted to find a part-time executive director with marketing experience. Our first survey, which was conducted last fall, brought this need home (see abbreviated survey outcome below).

In addition to being an enthusiastic user of both Blackstone parks, where she runs and walks with her young family, Amy Larkin brims with ideas for how to convey their value to Providence residents.

As a longtime marketing director for U.S. Sailing, and from her personal experience as a proud resident of Providence, Amy knows that many users are unaware of the BPC’s role in tending these historic parks. And she has many ideas for how to recruit the volunteers we need in order to continue the popular programs of the Education Committee, not to mention the activities of the Boulevard and Park committees.

The BPC is expecting to see considerable synergy between Amy Larkin and volunteer board member Amy Zinsser as well as a new recruit to the board, Allison Bryant. All three have deep experience in marketing and membership. So you will be hearing much more about the Blackstone parks in the months to come.

Survey Results

The BPC is indebted to Amy Zinsser for designing and collating the BPC’s first-ever survey of Providence residents. Bringing her experience as a marketer familiar with statistics to the task, Amy recently analyzed the survey results and explained them to board members eager to learn about an area unfamiliar to them.

A significant sample drawn from nearly 800 residents of Providence revealed that many people would like to participate in more activities in both parks, especially the Conservation District overlooking the Seekonk River. Also of interest to the Conservancy is peoples’ interest in participating in more hands-on activities. Helping people to fulfill this desire is where the new executive director and new volunteers will come in.

Winter Duck Walk

The Blackstone Parks Conservancy has just finished its second Winter Duck Walk, another major success for the Education Committee. The Seekonk River is Florida to many diving and dabbling ducks escaping the Canadian winter. The antics of the migratory birds delighted more than 70 participants on a sunny day in the high 50’s.

Lauren Parmalee, Senior Director of Education at Audubon Society of Rhode Island, led the walk. Her sharp eyes helped the group identify 17 different species.

The group, ranging from veteran to first-time birdwatchers of all ages, shared bird books, stories, binoculars, and tips for how to spot faraway birds in the wide river. Hot chocolate and coloring books at the Narragansett Boat Club completed the outing, which exemplified the kinds of well-organized events the tiny Education Committee has been staging for more than three years now.

Jane Peterson

Please join the Blackstone Parks Conservancy for light refreshments and to learn about all the ways you can get involved as volunteer for the parks.

This event is for you if:

You enjoy meeting new, fun, engaging people
You want to learn about how to help keep our Blackstone Parks healthy and vibrant
You enjoy free refreshments on a Sunday afternoon
You want to take a guided walk (weather permitting) through the parks

We look forward to seeing you!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

3 – 4:30pm

9 Parkside Road, Providence, RI



Providence, RI (March 13, 2017) – The Blackstone Parks Conservancy, the organization dedicated to the preservation and stewardship of historic Blackstone Park Conservation District and Blackstone Boulevard, announced that Amy Larkin (Providence, RI) has joined as the executive director.

Alongside Jane Peterson, President of the BPC; Amy will be the face and voice for the organization. Her other responsibilities will include promoting the organization and parks associated with the Conservancy, increasing volunteer engagement, and boosting the organization’s activities and membership.

“Amy brings a strong background of marketing and communications, and we are thrilled to welcome her,” said Jane Peterson, president of the Blackstone Parks Conservancy. “These parks need and deserve the kind of expertise Amy brings to the table.”

Previously Amy’s work was as a long-time marketing director for US Sailing, and from her personal experience as a proud resident of Providence, Amy knows that many users are unaware of the BPC’s role in tending these historic parks.

On her new position, Amy states, “I am excited about joining the Blackstone Parks Conservancy and am looking forward to working with the board, members and volunteers to promote and enhance the incredible jewels of parks that we are lucky to have in our backyard.”

Amy, her husband McKenzie, and their son and daughter live in Wayland Square.

About the Blackstone Parks Conservancy: Founded in 1979 the Blackstone Parks Conservancy is dedicated to the preservation and stewardship of historic Blackstone Park Conservation District and Blackstone Boulevard. The BPC cares for these two city parks in partnership with the Providence Parks Department and the Department of Public Works. The Conservancy is a membership organization with an all-volunteer board of directors.

Winter Duck Walk 2017

Gadwall, photographed by BPC volunteer Elena Riverstone

Luckily for the bird-watchers who flocked to the Blackstone Parks Conservancy’s second Winter Duck Walk on February 19th, the Seekonk River is Florida to many diving and dabbling ducks escaping the Canadian winter. The antics of the migratory birds delighted more than 70 participants on a sunny day in the high 50’s.

Lauren Parmalee, Senior Director of Education at Audubon Society of Rhode Island, led the walk. Her sharp eyes helped the group identify 17 different species (see list below). Earlier Lauren had sighted a rare visitor to New England, the Tufted Duck, as well as the rarely seen Barrow’s Goldeneye.

The group, ranging from veteran to first-time birdwatchers of all ages, shared bird books, stories, binoculars, and tips for how to spot faraway birds in the wide river. Hot chocolate and coloring books at the Narragansett Boat Club completed the outing.

Consider adding the BPC February 2018 Winter Bird Walk to the list of not-to-be-missed events for next year.


Buffleheads, photographed by BPC volunteer Elena Riverstone

Mid-winter is a time to dream of new green leaves unfolding in the Blackstone parks and the mountain laurel lighting up the woods like so many giant paper lanterns. And to figure out how the Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) can best serve the parks and the thousands who will use them in 2017.

Like many non-profit organizations, the BPC happily noticed a bump in contributions last fall. And with this small spike came new members and more expressions of support than usual. Much appreciated notes on contribution envelopes usually say things like “Keep up the good work,” or “You’re doing a great job!” But one response to our fall appeal stood out from the rest: “Now is the time for us all to pull together!”

The boost couldn’t have come at a better time. While many loyal members consistently support the BPC’s care of the two Blackstone parks, some friends have moved away in recent years and our membership numbers have declined slightly when we need them to be rising.

Despite the efforts of our volunteers to reach out, far too many Providence residents–even close neighbors and others who frequently walk or run in one or both parks—do not know who it is that adds new trees and plants to the Boulevard and waters them. Nor do they realize who refurbishes the trails in the Blackstone Park Conservation District and replaces the plants that have died over the winter.

The BPC supported by our members does all of the above and much more in collaboration with an overextended Parks Department charged with looking after more than 100 city parks. And dwindling resources. Rhode Island’s environmental agencies also provide crucial assistance, especially in addressing stormwater and erosion challenges in the heavily used Conservation District.

But all this work is not enough. To do justice to the parks, before the busy spring-summer-fall season begins the BPC needs to beef up its membership and its cadre of volunteers in order to catch up with invasive plant species and to avoid having to cut back our concerts and popular education programs. Reversing attrition challenges is high on our agenda.

Meanwhile, there is more to do to improve the stability of the parks in the face of erratic rainfall. Like environmentalists everywhere, we are scrambling to build resilience into our precious green spaces. Park Committee Chair Carrie Drake and member Margaret Brookner and City Forester Doug Still brought home some useful ideas along these lines from the January workshop organized by the U.S. Forest Service in Boston.

On February eighth this year the temperature hit 60 degrees. And the next day came a blizzard with 25 degrees. New Englanders are accustomed to weather swings, but not to the extremes we are now seeing. Storm surges require that we spend more time and money strengthening paths and trails, and drought has made it essential to water the boulevard and new plants in the woods more often than in the past.

Plans for 2017

This month the newly revived Boulevard Committee is figuring out how to manage pruning, watering, and mulching in 2017, as well a tree inventory and solutions for the worn center path.

The Park Committee will continue the popular Park Keeping sessions and work on badly eroded areas and invasive plant removal and replacement projects.

How many educational programs and concerts take place will depend on new volunteers signing up with the Education Committee. To participate, please contact the BPC (see below).

And please remember to send your Eastside Marketplace receipts to the Conservancy.

Jane Peterson

Winter brings some good things!  On Sunday, February 19, 2:00 – 3:30, the Blackstone Parks Conservancy Education Committee invites you to join us on a guided walk along the bank of the Seekonk River to observe the “winter ducks”.  We will have a good chance to see at least seven kinds of waterfowl that visit Providence only in the winter months (and some that are here year-round). The family-friendly walk will be led by Lauren Parmelee, Senior Director of Education at the Audubon Society of RI.

The Narragansett Boat Club has generously offered the use of their deck for observation, and our walk will begin and end there, finishing with coffee and hot chocolate. Binoculars are highly recommended – we will have a few extra pairs to lend. Children are welcome and can take home a free copy of the newly revised BPC Winter Duck Coloring Book!  Rain date: February 26th.


Cooper Hawke

This Cooper hawk was photographed by Mike Morin at York Pond.

It’s About Giving Back

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.

Jane Peterson

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.