A recent stroll around the five-plus-acre plateau of Blackstone Park overlooking the Seekonk River revealed a woodland far healthier and greener than it was, say, five years ago. Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) volunteers are accustomed to looking for the problems–the dying plants and worn patches–to see what needs to be tackled next. But these moments among trees tinged with autumn yellow inspired thoughts of how much has changed for the better.
How do you manage the unmanageable? Where to begin in an eroding park that, as a visiting forester once observed, was being “loved to death” by visitors and besieged by intensifying storms and invasive plants?
With Parks Department support, the BPC decided to encourage natural processes between the trails—falling trees and limbs would be left to decompose. To keep as much topsoil in place as possible we would discourage runoff—with water bars shunting water off to the side of trails–and protect more plants.
In figuring out how best to outpace challenges, mistakes were sometimes made—early on, tightly placed logs lining trails were channeling torrents of water instead of allowing it to seep away through gaps. But with the help of scientists like Stephen Hamburg and Hope Leeson and a stormwater expert on our Park Committee, volunteers soon learned what was necessary and possible.
Each swath of green grass and wildflowers where not long ago there was bare dirt, each walkable trail that had been a gully came about with the help of many school children and teachers, ecologists, environmental agencies, the Parks Department, and groups like the Appalachian Mountain Club. And Mother Nature of course.
The lush green edge at Parkside Avenue, formerly a muddy patch where runoff and erosion prevailed, exists today because experienced trail tender Don Cordner promoted not mowing that stretch in order to allow sparse grass to reseed. Don and his cohorts achieved a lot with little money and few volunteers, tirelessly plying wheelbarrows filled with wood chips, and installing coir logs and water bars to stem the washouts and encourage new growth.
If you’d like to join the BPC in protecting the Park, attend a monthly ParkKeeping session led by Park Committee Chair Carrie Drake.
Stay tuned for columns about more Park heroes.