Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Celebrating the Roger Williams Park Restoration Project

Community members and project partners gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony today near Roosevelt Lake in Roger Williams Park. The gathering celebrated the completion of the first stormwater projects in the park, and the establishment of a walking trail behind the carousel. Volunteers who helped plant the rain gardens were given citations from the Mayor, and Governor was on hand to help cut the ribbon.

We all know of Roger Williams Park in Providence as that urban gem that hosts the zoo, the carousel and botanical garden, as well as the seven man-made ponds that meander through the watershed. The ponds in the park were constructed in the 1880’s and 1890’s, at the southern end of the growing city. At that time, the population of the city was smaller and development less dense. As development grew in the neighborhoods surrounding the park, stormwater was directed to the park ponds. Park roads and parking lots also drained directly to the ponds.

If you ever visited the park on a nice weekend, you know that a favorite activity has been feeding the geese. These geese grew in number and became very unhealthy as they relied more and more on human “junk food”. Despite efforts to curb their numbers and to instruct visitors not to feed the geese, their waste has been very bad for water quality. This source of nutrients is added to the additional impacts from road and other surface runoff, resulting in algae blooms that close the ponds to recreation.

The Roger Williams Park Restoration project has begun to change this situation. Engineers examined the park for areas where stormwater could be intercepted before reaching the ponds. About 30 spots were investigated, and five sites were chosen for retrofit projects. Other suggested actions include removal of curbing along park roads and disconnecting building downspouts.  Save The Bay has helped to organize volunteers for planting in the new raingardens located at three sites along the ponds. A group from Amgen helped out during the City’s Earth Day event, and planting has continued through the spring. A master plan for the park restoration will provide a list of other ideas to continue work, and a new group, the Roger Williams Park Conservancy, is being formed to take on the restoration effort. 

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