Climate change is not news to Rhode Island, a leader in adapting to intensifying storms. Nor is it news to the Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC), which has been working for years with the city and with state and federal environmental groups to mitigate the effects of increasingly extreme weather on the two Blackstone parks. The Conservancy is a small, but proud, part of Rhode Island’s environmental safety net.
As scientific understanding of ecology and human health expands, the value of protecting urban greenspace becomes more obvious. Advice from local universities like URI, non-profit groups like Save the Bay, and environmental agencies helps the BPC find the best current solutions to challenges like erosion and invasive plants and pests.
Blackstone Park Conservation District
As you may remember, in 2013-2015, Conservancy volunteers won major grants and contributed many volunteer hours to install and nurture soil-retaining plants and rebuild gullied trails in the Blackstone Park overlooking the Seekonk River. The restored areas are more stable than before but the impact of recent storms is visible. By scheduling regular volunteer work sessions to refresh wood chips on trails, repair vandalized signs, and more, we have been able to reduce erosion by new storms. Many volunteers including park users, schoolchildren, company employees, and neighboring Narragansett Boat Club rowers work and learn from Conservancy leaders.
Blackstone Boulevard Park
Of course, trees play an important part in both parks. Their cooling effect in hot weather is palpable and their ability to absorb planet-heating carbon dioxide is well known. On the boulevard the Conservancy plants and tends to new trees (over 300 so far) using donor contributions.
The BPC will soon turn to a long-anticipated upgrade of the popular 1.6-mile-long center path, which draws runners and walkers from all over Providence and beyond. The 30-foot test section at Upton of what is hoped to be a more durable and porous material is a first public step in a two- or three-year campaign.
One response to our request for feedback from path users came in the mail: “The color and texture are excellent. The material looks very natural and does not draw attention to itself. The surface also seems to stay put without flicking up bits of clay that burrow into my sock and grind against my ankle.”
The Conservancy and the Parks Department agree with this assessment, but more time is needed to be sure. And donations of course.