Ever since hearing the sad news about Elena’s death we’ve been thinking about all she gave to the Blackstone Park Conservation District over the years, and the memories keep coming. She left her mark in many ways.
We first met Elena when she reached out to us with ideas for bringing peace between dog-owners and park-keepers. That slightly nervous meeting over coffee led to collaboration and eventually friendship, and planted the seeds for the Parks Department’s creation, years later, of a real dog park at Waterman Street. It’s hard to imagine any of this happening without her.
Along the way there were other significant achievements, beginning with a joint photo exhibit by dog owners and Blackstone Parks Conservancy members. The theme was both groups caring about the Park. It’s striking how many of Elena’s ideas involved creativity and play. What fun it was working with her!
Elena loved plants and trees and she became one of the first Conservancy members to be certified at URI in managing invasive species. With characteristic determination she took on a particularly formidable foe, Japanese knotweed, as a personal challenge and spent many hours digging out roots—she preferred to work without gloves––and encouraging others to join her.
It was Elena at one point who suggested we make fixing trails our primary focus, and that led us to apply for our first large federal-state trail grant. Its success led to all our later trail improvements.
Most delightful of all was Elena’s gift with children, which inspired considerable creativity all around. She spent all of one night creating fanciful Fairy Houses as models for kids to imitate at a gathering. Later it was only natural that she should be a founding member of the Education Committee and the designer of very popular Halloween celebrations in the woods, the Moonrise event, and many other gatherings.
Riverwood, the meeting place for children and various activities near the Boat House, was another of Elena’s good ideas. She felt strongly that children should have a special place to call their own. In her honor, the Park Committee is planning a plaque there.
We’ll miss Elena, but she will not be forgotten.