Blackstone Parks Conservancy

Blackstone Boulevard and Blackstone Park are still open for walking, although everyone needs to keep up social distancing. Feel free to contact us with questions or if you see any maintenance or other issues in the parks. Stay tuned by checking this website – we look forward to resuming our events as soon as possible: caring for the parks and engaging park users is the core of our mission.

On March 30 Wendy Nilsson, Superintendent of the Providence Parks Department, sent the following notice to help us all understand the latest City guidelines around parks:

“As our community continues to take the steps necessary to fight the spread of COVID-19, we will be postponing Earth Day activities and any volunteer events in parks until further notice. Our community’s health and safety are our number one priority, so we ask that folks continue to do their part by staying home and following social distancing practices (6 feet of space and avoiding gatherings larger than 5 people) if you do go outside for essential errands or to enjoy our beautiful parks.

We are striving to balance cleaning the parks with our crews’ health and safety. Therefore, park crews are out there every week, albeit in a limited capacity, attending to basic services. We are grateful you are also looking out for our parks. If you see something that needs our attention right away, please email and we will do our best to take care of it as soon as we can.

Until we hear otherwise, playground and park construction projects with contractors are proceeding. However, we expect delays as the supply chain and labor is affected by this situation. Projects that are in the design phase are moving forward.

Lastly, we regret that additional spaces in the city are closed for public use as of 03/30/2020 and until further notice:
Small playgrounds and play areas within parks (for kids, youth and adults) – larger parks that have passive areas for recreation will remain open. The goal is to keep people off the play and exercise equipment
Baseball Fields
Basketball Courts
Soccer/Football Fields

Thank you for your patience and understanding!”

Go for a walk

A cheerful voice rose above the mad checkout scene at Whole Foods early in the pandemic: “This is a good time to enjoy our beautiful parks!” New BPC board member Jeff Williams was regaling the cashier and anyone lucky enough to be nearby with one upside of the current crisis.

Jeff is right. Of course, even when we’re outside we need to put aside our habit of embracing or shaking hands with others and to keep a safe physical distance (6 feet is recommended) between ourselves and other people. But that doesn’t mean we need to stay inside.

Indeed, especially now that gyms and the boathouse are closed, getting exercise outside in the glorious spring that is just beginning could help balance our bodies and spirits. This spring the air is considerably cleaner than usual–an upside of the dreadful pandemic is the dramatic reduction of air pollution.

The first blooms—the buttery yellow cornus mars trees–on the Boulevard signify what’s to come. And the parks, particularly the 45-acre Blackstone Park Conservation District beside the Seekonk River, continue to need patient attention and maintenance.

So check our website for upcoming caretaking sessions, and go for a walk. We can keep two arms’ lengths between ourselves and other humans and still feel connected to each other and to nature.

Jane Peterson

State officials have urged us all to act now to help limit the spread of coronavirus. To help keep our community safe we are postponing our in-person annual meeting originally scheduled for April 7. We hope to reschedule in the coming months, perhaps for an outdoor meeting.  We will post the annual report online, and send it by email to all current members. You are welcome to contact us with any questions.

Please take care of yourselves, and we hope you get a chance to enjoy some restorative moments in the parks in the coming weeks.

Thank you for understanding and helping our community through this challenging time.

Waiting

Despite the longer days and the return of some birds to Blackstone Park, a leading “hot spot” in Rhode Island for bird watching even during winter according to Providence Parks Department expert April Alix, it isn’t yet spring in Providence. The volunteers of the Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) begin to feel restless, but the parks are icy or muddy and it is necessary to wait. March is the month of waiting.

What are we waiting for besides spring? News about grant applications, for one thing. The Education Committee hopes for a small grant to help organize the Earth Day Celebration in late April. Meanwhile, the Park Committee is waiting to hear the results of an application for substantial assistance with another steep slope in the center section that is subject to heavy foot traffic.

If the grant for work in the Blackstone Park Conservation District comes through, the BPC will be able to continue its progress in stabilizing highly erodible slopes, improving trails, and restoring habitat. If not, we will try again next year.

We wait, too, for decisions about next moves on the Boulevard path. Here, landscape architect Colgate Searles and the Parks Department are selecting the best section for restoration, drawing on lessons learned from the small, difficult area restored in 2019. Proper drainage is key here, too, as the Boulevard also tilts, however subtly, downhill toward the Seekonk River.

Happily for the thousands of people who walk and run on the Boulevard path, the City Council has appropriated a sizable sum to help with restoration of another section, and the Parks Department has offered to contribute important preparatory work. Still, a matching grant is needed to for the sake of efficiency to enable tackling a sizeable section, and the BPC will be submitting an application soon.

Finally, we wait for completion of the first overall pruning on the Boulevard in many years, which is expected to finish in April.

Jane Peterson

A Sense of Place

I run a monthly nature experience at Blackstone Park Conservancy where I’ll have an information table and art activity that extends into a way to explore the park.  We’ve explored insects, spiders, broadleaf trees, and winter birds, among others. It’s an outdoor program, so weather is always a concern. So it was no surprise when rain forced us to reschedule the January event two weeks later. Of course, two weeks later, it was 17 degrees.
Our theme that month was cones and conifers. I was well-prepared with samples of cones from many types of evergreen, from Douglas fir to white pine. There were clip boards with infographics I had put together making it easy to type different conifer families. I even had information on the Wollemi pine, or “dinosaur tree”, that had been saved from the Australian fires.  But it was 17 degrees. And no one came.
The only other person out there was Harold. He comes regularly to tend to the ducks.  There’s a raft of about 40 mallards that flock to him when his car pulls up. These ducks know Harold. And Harold knows them. Not only does he feed them, but he knows many of their back-stories. Some he’s released from fishing line. He’s seen two hit by a car and was only able to save one. He knows how another got its scars.  Blackstone Park is a very popular place for bird watchers, and Harold can identify many of the waterbirds that visit. He’s more than just a visitor, though.  He is a steward.
The following month I did not advertise well as it was February and I expected more inclement weather or cold. But I was there as faithfully as ever, setting up my table with a table cloth and new clipboards. No more taping pictures down!  Remarkably, it was in the mid-forties that day. And people started to come…
People of all ages showed up! First, an older couple waiting for their grand-kids. Then families, other couples, a single woman. I invited them to explore the moss and lichen I had collected. We discussed symbiotic relationships, climate change, biomimicry…  How moss can insulate buildings and and certain lichens are used in medicines, dyes, and other industries.  Kids ran off with magnifying lenses to find their own. We looked at samples under a microscope and learned about the radical survival skills of tardigrades, also known as water bears or moss piglets.
Twenty two visitors in all took time in their day to learn about nature and how we can work WITH it, be part of the interconnected web.  Do you have a lot of lichen on your trees?  Maybe even the shrubby kind?  The more the merrier! Many are sensitive to pollution, so if you see a lot, that indicates cleaner air.
And it’s not hurting your tree. Lichen is just a relationship between a fungus and algae and cyanobacteria.  They work together to make a home and food.  Similarly, we wouldn’t be able to live without the help of mitochondria in our cells. Perhaps by studying nature, we’ll find more ways to work together.
Join us on Saturday, March 7th from 10 to 11:30 am when we learn all about frogs and toads!  You can download our lichen activity here.
Melissa Guilltet