Sixty-five students between 6thand 12thgrades at Lincoln and Wheeler schools worked on two gorgeous back-to-back days in May to spruce up Blackstone Park Conservation District. This is not astonishing, as various schools give a few hours every year to the park overlooking the Seekonk River. What is astonishing is how much they accomplished.
After a long winter the heavily used Park is in great need of attention, not only to tidy up, but also to repair. The wood chips topping the trails need replacing, worn water bars need to be cleaned out or replaced, young or fragile plants to be weeded, and damaged fencing to be repaired. Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) wheelbarrows, some steered by grinning youngsters not much taller than the barrow, ferried enormous quantities of chips that had been delivered to the site by the Parks Department.
Kids from each school divided into groups for different projects and went at them with zest. Supervising teachers, possibly referring to themselves as well as the children, noted that it was good to get outdoors at exam time and do physical work.
All the projects are in some way important for stabilizing slopes of the steep-sided park. Weeding protects the plants that hold the soil in place. Wood chips decompose, softening hard-packed trails and making them more porous so rain can soak in where it falls instead of rushing downhill and carrying soil with it. Water bars steer surges of stormwater off to the side, where it can be more readily absorbed. And fencing protects the plants that protect the soil that holds the park together.
The thought occurs that the Conservancy could not manage Blackstone Park without the kids and adults who come for an annual cleanup or for a regular Park Keeping event. The latter takes place once a month between work and supper so that people can drop by for an hour or so, get a light workout and a sense of accomplishment.
These are difficult times for recruiting and retaining volunteers, as many people feel they are too busy to give time. But it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time—as little as two hours a year for one-time projects or two-four hours a month for ongoing ones. Check out the website below for these and other opportunities such as concerts and educational programs.