Winter brings a new population of ducks to Providence who have flown down from the north to take advantage of Rhode Island’s relative warmth and fish filled waters. We will have a good chance to see at least seven kinds of waterfowl that only visit Providence in the winter months, as well as seeing some of our year round birds. Join us for a free Guided Winter Duck Walk along the Seekonk River and adjacent Blackstone Park in Providence. Our walk is sponsored by the Blackstone Parks Conservancy and will be run by Dan Berard, Naturalist and Ornithologist.
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. Children can take home a free copy of the BPC Winter Ducks Coloring Book! Binoculars are highly recommended – we will have a few extra pairs to lend. Children are welcome to take advantage of the free nature program running concurrently on making bird feeders in the Blackstone Park woods adjacent to the boat club or can join along in the walk.
At Narragansett Boat Club, 2 River Road aka Rive Drive, Providence, RI 02906. https://goo.gl/ZjGudQ
To attend please register here.
Preparing to enter data from the latest street tree inventory into the computer, City Forester Doug Still says Providence has “a lot of active, engaged tree advocates.” Sixty volunteers–including two Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) board members–and five part time seasonal Parks Department staff completed the count for 2017.
Still will compare the new tree count with the 2006 inventory to see how the urban forest has grown and how the species composition has changed. “Hopefully,” says the forester, “it’s more diverse and there’s been a net gain.”
Like the street trees, those in the two Blackstone parks that the BPC helps manage suffered relatively light damage by winter moths and gypsy moths in 2017. (Rural trees did not fare as well.) The extended wet spring allowed fungi to thrive, including Entomophagia maimaiga, the one that attacks gypsy moths, and a drop in the gypsy moth population is predicted for 2018.
BPC Boulevard Chair Colgate Searle works closely with the city forester to care for the 1.6-mile-long Boulevard Park, and he has ideas for future protection of its trees. Building on the extensive pruning that was done with funds raised by the BPC a decade ago, Searle recommends starting another cycle of complete pruning five years from now.
“Probably in oak trees now if you look up there’s one limb that’s dead,” says Searle, a busy landscape architect who also teaches at RISD. He adds, “It’s much more costly to do on an emergency basis.” To get ahead of the problem, he wants to start pruning the area that needs the most help and then prune a section each year over five years. He would like to see a regular annual pruning after that, when there will be less to do.
Into the Woods in the Blackstone Park Conservation District
In the Conservancy’s December nature program for young children, a light snowfall delighted eager six-to-nine-year-olds and one three-year-old with parents in tow. Education Committee volunteer Rotem Goldschmid led them into the woods above River Road to search for a hand-shaped sassafras leaf and a dead tree with a squirrel nest, among other treasures in the scavenger hunt.
Now another good year is ending for both Blackstone Parks and what we hope will be an especially good one begins. In 2018 the Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) and the Providence Department of Parks and Recreation plan to float a new vision of the Boulevard and to start long-needed repairs on the Boulevard path.
A Boulevard Path Transformed
The BPC and the PD have long struggled to find affordable, durable, and porous means to patch the worst sections of the Boulevard path, which was last resurfaced in its entirety in 1999-2000. Heavy use along with erosion brought on by rainstorms and winter weather has taken a heavy toll. For several years, thousands of people from all over Providence and beyond who enjoy walking or running on the Boulevard have tolerated mud and pitted surfaces. Clearly, it’s time to rebuild.
Before 2000, BPC board member Bob Murphy recalls a path full of rocks and tree roots with a few splintery benches and frequented by only “a few hardy people.” But after the year 2,000 upgrade, which was paid for with a $133,000 bond, people flocked to the Boulevard. The Blackstone Park Improvement Association began seeking and managing donations for trees and benches, and the BPC continued the program, installing over 300 trees and many benches under Treasurer Deming Sherman’s management.
More than Patching
One of several welcome new additions to the BPC board in 2017 was landscape architect Colgate Searle, with his passion for tackling soil and plant issues and vision for a more pedestrian-friendly Boulevard. You may have seen him digging test pits along the path this summer. This fall Colgate met with fellow board member, greenwater infrastructure expert Jon Ford and drafted a detailed plan of all the sections of the path, which vary widely in composition.
Next steps: the Parks Department will estimate costs to resurface the entire path (more thoroughly than before), and the BPC will begin raising funds. Hopefully, work can begin this spring, but the pace of upgrading, be it two years or five, will depend on donors. Executive Director Amy Larkin calls this “all hands on deck.”
A Shout Out:
To the hardworking BPC committees and to our faithful Board members.
Special thanks to Charlie and Kenzie Larkin and Ike Paull, who brought spirit and energy to Park Keeping sessions in 2017.
Unfortunately, due to inclement weather, today’s work party for RiverWood is cancelled. Stay tuned for a new plan. Meanwhile, stay warm and enjoy our first snow!