Overview

Park on Loring Avenue

Blackstone Park Conservation District is a 45-acre natural woodland.  It contains two ponds, York Pond and Hockey Pond, and some open meadow. This park serves as a green buffer between city streets and the Seekonk River, reducing the amount of runoff that enters the river. With its varied topography, it supports a rich diversity of plants and wildlife habitats and is part of a larger regional wildlife corridor that includes the Blackstone River watershed and Narragansett Bay.  Migrating birds stop by in Spring and Fall.  In 2003, the park was rezoned a Conservation District through the creation of a new zoning category to protect environmentally sensitive open spaces.  The Park is enjoyed by walkers, birders, and fishermen/women, as well as by passing bicyclists, runners, and motorists.

Strolling through Blackstone Park Conservation DistrictIn 2001 Rick Enser, a conservation biologist at URI, compiled detailed lists of species spotted in the park (see Birds, Plants, Other Wildlife).  The lists have grown thanks to amateur sightings, and we are still adding today.  Please let us know if you have spotted more plants or wildlife species that should go on these lists.

Currently the woodland, ponds and open areas of the Conservation District face a considerable challenge from invasive plants. These plants were originally brought to our region for gardens or came in as accidental "hitchhikers".  For various reasons they grow very well here, and crowd out the native plants that local wildlife need for food.  They also invade yards and gardens, and are difficult to eradicate.  We are working against invasive species in two ways.  First, we are removing invasive plants so that the many attractive native plants that already live in the park will be able to multiply and attract more wildlife. Second, we are planting native plants, preferably grown in Rhode Island, to more quickly fill in the bare spots.

History
History

A Short History Of Blackstone Park

York Pond from Irving Avenue

Picture Native Americans traveling from the East Side of Providence to East Providence. Their important route, the Wampanoag Trail, included a portion that went through Blackstone Park in the area of what is now called South Angell Street. Once they reached the end of land they forded the Seekonk River and continued their travels.

In 1866 Moses B. Jenkins and William P. Vaughn donated 'for a public park' five acres including a stream and the ravine between Butler Avenue and the Seekonk.

In the late 1860's, developers mapped out the adjacent area south toward Angell Street with winding roads and house lots. Because it seemed a long distance from the developing city only a few houses were built and it remained relatively untouched until after the turn of the century.

Former Narragansett Boat Club

A late nineteenth-century interest in including parks and green space in city plans led to the development of the area as a public park. Subsequent purchases enlarged the park to its present 45-acre size. However, for years the park was neglected. People removed sand from the banks to use for building. When the city planted pines to stop this activity, many of those were dug up to improve private yards.

In 1908 the city improved the park under the stewardship of Parks Superintendent Greene. Improvements included the creation of a bridle path for horseback riding and grading the bluffs fronting on Irving Avenue. The stairway was built to York Pond from the bluffs. River Road was improved (although not paved).

During the Great Depression in the 1930's, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built square stone pillars and wall at the edge of the woods opposite the Narragansett Boat Club. These were part of a planned entrance to the park from River Drive that was never completed. In addition, the WPA built the pillars and wall at the foot of the stairs near York Pond. The WPA also may have paved the road, and almost certainly added curbstones and sidewalks.

WPA plaques may be found in two places, one on the outflow structure of the pond, and the other on the right hand pillar opposite the Narragansett Boat Club.

The park borders the Seekonk River all the way from the Henderson Bridge to Gulf Road, where a stone wall divides it from Butler Hospital property. It is divided into three sections by Irving Avenue and Angell Street, which end at the river. There are trails throughout the wooded areas. The central area is the most open where some of the trails follow old wood roads. During the fishing season, people fish in the river. Boats from the Narragansett Boat Club are on the river from dawn to dusk, weather permitting.

Geology

Geology

Ten thousand years ago, the receding glacier left deep outwash consisting of sand and gravel deposits that form the banks of the Seekonk River and the bluffs above it. On eroded trails and banks the yellow sand and small stones that underlie the topsoil are visible. Over time, decaying plant material formed the layer of topsoil that sustains the woods and undergrowth of Blackstone Park.

Cumberlandite, a mineral unique to Cumberland, RI, was carried from Cumberland by the glacier and deposited in the park. A number of pieces of this black rock flecked with light crystals have been found and continue to turn up. Cumberlandite is weakly magnetic and unusually heavy. For the true lover of geologic detail, Alonzo W. Quinn, in Rhode Island Geology for the Non-Geologist, writes that it "is a porphyritic rock, composed of larger crystals of plagioclase feldspar in a finer-grained groundmass of magnetite, ilmenite, and olivine". Cumberlandite may also be found along the riverbank in Swan Point Cemetery.

Cumberlandite

Birds
Birds

Bird Sightings in the Conservation District

Annotated List (through March 20, 2010)

Loons and Grebes

  • Red throated Loon
  • Common Loon
  • Horned Grebe
  • Pied-billed Grebe

Cormorants

  • Double Breasted Cormorant
  • Great Cormorant

Herons and Bitterns

  • Great Blue Heron
  • Green Heron
  • Yellow Crowned Night Heron
  • Black Crowned Night Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Snowy Egret

Swans, Geese and Ducks

  • Mute Swan
  • Canada Goose
  • Brant
  • American Black Duck
  • Gadwall
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Northern Pintail
  • Bufflehead
  • Mallard
  • Ringed Neck Duck
  • Long-tailed Duck
  • Wood Duck
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Canvasback
  • Greater Scaup
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Common Eider
  • Surf Scoter
  • Barrows Goldeneye
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Bufflehead
  • Common Merganser
  • Red Breasted Merganser
  • Hooded Merganser

Vultures, Hawks and Falcons

  • Turkey Vulture
  • Northern Harrier
  • Bald Eagle
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Coopers Hawk
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Osprey
  • American Kestrel
  • Peregrine Falcon

Grouse, Quail and Turkeys

  • Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Wild Turkey
  • Rails
  • Virginia Rail
  • American Coot

Shore Birds

  • Killdeer
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • Semipalmated Plover
  • Black-bellied Plover
  • Solitary Sandpiper
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Least Sandpiper
  • White-rumped Sandpiper
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper
  • Short-billed Dowitcher

Gulls and Terns

  • Laughing Gull
  • Bonaparte’s Gull
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Iceland Gull
  • Great Black-backed Gull
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Caspian Tern
  • Forster’s Tern
  • Common Tern

Jays and Swallows and Crows

  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Fish Crow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Purple Martin
  • Bank Swallow
  • Cliff Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow

 

 

Doves, Cuckoos, Owls, Swifts and Hummingbirds

  • Mourning Dove
  • Cuckoo - Black-Billed or Yellow-Billed?
  • Long-eared Owl
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Snowy Owl
  • Eastern Screech Owl
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Chimney Swift
  • Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Woodpeckers and Flycatchers and Others

  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Eastern Wood Peewee
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Great Crested Flycatcher
  • Crested Flycatcher
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo

Titmice, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Wrens, and Creepers

  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • House Wren
  • Carolina Wren
  • Marsh Wren

Kinglets, Thrushes and Thrashers and Others

  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
  • Veery
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Wood Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Gray Catbird
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Northern Mockingbird

Waxwings and Starlings and Others

  • Cedar Waxwing
  • European Starling
  • Wood Warblers
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Northern Parula
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Black and White Warbler
  • Yellow-Throated Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Pine Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Ovenbird
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • American Redstart
  • Chestnut Sided Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Black-Throated Warbler
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Worm Eating Warbler
  • Kentucky Warbler
  • Canada Warbler
  • Yellow-Breasted Chat

Tanagers and Sparrows and Juncos

  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Eastern Towhee
  • American Tree Swallow
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • House Sparrow
  • Slate-colored Junco
  • Dark-eyed Junco

Cardinals, Grosbeaks

  • Northern Cardinal
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Blackbirds, Orioles, Finches, and Other Passerines

  • Bobolink
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Rusty Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Boat-tailed Grackle
  • Brown-Headed Cowbird
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Purple Finch
  • House Finch
  • American Goldfinch
  • Redpoll
  • Evening Grosbeak
  • Pine Siskin

 

Plants
Plants

Plant Life in the Conservation District

Trees that predominate are oaks, American beech, and black birch, with a few maples and birch. Beneath the trees are many native blueberry bushes, clethra (summer sweet), and mountain laurel.

Wild Flowers and Plants

Throughout the woods are thinly scattered wild flowers. These include the pink lady’s slipper, May apple, False Solomon’s seal, and Canada mayflower.

 

False Solomons Seal

 

May Apple

 

Pink Ladys Slipper

 

Plants found along edges of the woods, particularly near the river, are wood aster, bayberry, sassafras, rosa rugosa, sweet fern, and sumac.

Plants found on the banks of York Pond at the end of Irving Avenue are elderberry, Joe Pye weed, goldenrod, bur cucumber, white snakeroot, evening primrose, milkweed, and touch-me-not (jewelweed).  curly dock, blue vervain, polygonum persicaria (lady’s thumb—pink thumblike flowers), and false nettle, chicory along the rail north of the entrance to York Pond meadow, and blue flowering pickerel weed in the pond.

List of Plants by Rick Enser (2001)

* indicates non-native to the U.S.A.

Woodlands: Uplands and Woods Edges

  • American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
  • White Oak (Quercus alba)
  • Black Oak (Quercus velutina)
  • Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea)
  • Gray Birch (Betula populifolia)
  • Chestnut (Castanea dentata)
  • Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
  • Sassafras ( Sassafras albidum)
  • Shadbush (Amelanchier arborea)
  • Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
  • Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
  • Winged Euonymus (Euonymus alatus)*
  • Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)
  • Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)
  • Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)
  • Catbriar (Smilax glauca)
  • Greenbriar (Smilax rotundifolia)
  • European bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)*
  • Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
  • Wild grape (Vitis labrusca)
  • Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)*
  • Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)*
  • Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)
  • Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
  • Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)*
  • Canada Lily (Maianthemum canadense)
  • False solomon’s seal (Smilacina racemosa)
  • Wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)
  • Red fescue (Festuca rubra)
  • Common crab grass (Digitaria sanguinalis)*
  • Common timothy (Phleum pratense)*
  • Deer tongue (Panicum clandestinum)
  • Wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)
  • Woodland aster (Aster divaricatus)
  • Purple stemmed aster (Aster puniceus)
  • Stiff aster (Aster linarifolius)
  • Frostweed (Helioanthemun canadense)
  • Medick (Medicago sp. )*
  • Round-headed bush-clover (Lespedeza capitata)
  • Violet bush-clover (Lespedeza violacea)
  • Spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)
  • Pink lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium acaule)
  • Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana)
  • Ajuga bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)*
  • Common hawkweed (Hieracium volgatum)
  • Canada hawkweed (Hieracium canadense)
  • Path-rush (Juncus tenus)
  • Striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata)
  • Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora)
  • Silverrod (Solidago bicolor)
  • Blue-stem goldenrod (Solidago caesia)
  • Rough-leaved goldenrod (Solidago rugosa)
  • Grass-leaved goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia)
  • Sweet-fern (Comptonia peregrina)
  • Swan’s sedge (Carex swanii)
  • Early sedge (Carex pensylvanica)
  • Umbrella-sedge (Cyperus lupulinus)
  • Indian cucumber-root (Medeola virginiana)
  • Rattlesnake root (Prenanthes alba)
  • Deptford pink (Dianthus armeria)*
  • Bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis)*
  • White clover (Trifolium repens)*
  • Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
  • White sweet clover (Melilotus alba)*
  • Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)*
  • Peppergrass (Lepidium sp.)
  • Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis)
  • Chickory (Cichorium intybus)*
  • Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
  • Common plantain (Plantago major)*
  • Long-leaved plantain (Plantago lanceolata)
  • Butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris)*
  • Wild Lettuce (Lactuca canadensis)
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)*

Pondshores

  • Black Willow (Salix nigra)
  • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
  • Joe-Pye-Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
  • Narrow-leaved cattail (Typha angustifoia)
  • Climbing hempweed (Mikania scandens)
  • Catalpa (Catalpa species)*
  • Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
  • American elderberry (Sambucus canadenseis)
  • Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea)
  • Wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
  • Mad-dog skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
  • Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)
  • Spotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
  • Yellow iris (Iris pseudoacorus)*
  • Pickerelweed (Pontedaria cordata)
  • Soft rush (Juncus effusus)
  • Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis)
  • Umbrella-sedge (Cyperus strigosus)
  • Swamp bedstraw (Galium palustre)
  • Groundnut (Apios americana)
  • Pilewort (Erechtites hierracifolia)
  • Narrow-leaved goldenrod (Euthamia tenuifolia)
  • Water horehound (Lycopus americana)
  • Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
  • Common threesquare (Scirpus pungens)

 

Non-native plants found in Blackstone Park

These have a tendency to be invasive.

  • Norway maple (Acer platanoides)
  • Sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)
  • Mimosa (Albezia julibrissia)
  • Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
  • Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
  • Catalpa (Catalpa species)
  • Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)
  • Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)
  • Winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus)
  • Morrow’s honeysuckle (Lonicira morrowii)
  • Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicira japonica)
  • Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
  • Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)
  • Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
  • Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)
  • Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinaceri)
  • Tall reed (Phragmites australis)
  • Sweet cherry (Prunus avium)
  • Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
  • Wisteria (Wisteris sinensis)
  • Black swallowwort (Vincetoxicum nigrum)
  • Climbing euonymus (Euonymus fortunei)
  • Porcelain vine (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata)
  • Buckthorn (Rhamnus sp.)
  • Yellow flag (Iris pseudoacorus)
  • Mulberry (Morus alba)
  • Mile-a-Minute Weed or Chinese Tearthumb (Persicaria perfoliatum)
  • Rosa Rugosa
  • Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens)
Invasives

Invasive Species

The most prevalent invasive species in the park are: Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Knotweed, Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus), Purple Loosestrife, Garlic Mustard, and Multiflora rose. Poison ivy, which grows throughout the park, is a native plant.

Most of these were introduced to the area by horticulturists as garden ornamentals.  An exception is garlic mustard, which was introduced as a food plant.  Japanese Knotweed, Purple Loosestrife, and Oriental Bittersweet are particularly invasive and difficult to eradicate.  Introduced plants that become invasive have particular habits that make them more successful than native plants, for example a long growing season, long tap roots to reach water, chemicals that weaken neighboring plants, and ability to tolerate harsh conditions.  These plants tend to crowd out the native plants that local wildlife need for food and habitat.  In the Conservation District, one instance of a native - invasive "mismatch" occurs when monarch butterflies lay their eggs on (invasive) black swallow-wort instead of native milkweed. Black swallow-wort is in the milkweed family, but the young monarch caterpillars cannot digest its leaves so they die.

For history and information on invasive plants in New England, see Invasive Plant Atlas of New England. For general information, please see www.invasives.org or invasivespeciesinfo.gov.


While you are enjoying the beauty of Blackstone Parks you may spot Invasive Species. Please notify us by completing the form below. Please give a description of the area you spotted the Invasives and upload a photograph if you have one. Thanks for helping to preserve Blackstone Parks.

 

Other Wildlife
Other Wildlife

Other Wildlife Sightings in the Conservation District

In the Ponds

  • Painted turtles
  • Snapping turtles
  • Brown-banded sunfish & other pond fish
  • Muskrats

In the Seekonk

  • Horse mussels
  • Grass shrimp
  • Blue shell and other Crabs
  • Bluefish, Striped Bass, Menhaden & other fish
  • Harbor seals on occasion
  • Horseshoe Crabs, at mating season (late May or early June, low tide, and at full and new moons)


Painted Turtle

Other Animals

  • Box Turtles
  • Garter & other snakes
  • Chipmunks
  • Coyotes
  • Red Foxes
  • Little Brown Bats
  • Opossums
  • Eastern Cottontail Rabbits
  • Raccoons
  • Salamanders
  • Skunks
  • Gray Squirrels
  • White-footed Mice
  • White Tailed Deer

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