Blackstone River Watershed Association
HOLD THE DATE: BRWA Annual
Meeting/Member Appreciation Event
Mark your calendar for Sunday, November 8, 1-4:30 pm
at the South Grafton Community House for a special event not to be missed.
In addition to holding our annual meeting, we are pleased to have Gene
Bernat give a presentation and tour of the Living Systems Lab at
Fisherville in Grafton. This is cutting-edge stuff! We'll be providing
more information closer to the date.
A Perfect Paddle
The BRWA hosted its first annual "Day on the
Blackstone" on June 6th. Over 30 participants paddled canoes and kayaks
down the Blackstone River from Stanley Woolen Mill in Uxbridge to the
Blackstone Gorge while National Park Service Ranger Chuck Arning did a
phenomenal job pointing out historic landmarks
including canal and lock remnants during paddle breaks. It was clear to
participants that the best way to really see the river is to paddle it.
One paddler called it "stunningly beautiful from that perspective".
A hearty thank you to the following partners who made this memorable event
possible: Alternatives Unlimited, Inc. for providing shuttle service, the
Blackstone Valley Paddle Club for serving as a great guide and for
providing safety support, and to MA DCR's Blackstone River and Canal Heritage
State Park team - Val, Jodie, Bill, and Kathryn, and especially Ranger
Chuck Arning! Everyone had a great time, the BRWA welcomed some new
members, and all agreed that this is definitely an event to repeat next
year! For more pictures, visit our Facebook page at
The day alternated between gentle rides and more challenging sections due,
in part, to recent rains that created strong current. At the Millville
rapids, people had the option to run the rapids or skirt around them.
Those who ran it found it exciting and despite a few 'dunks', the overall
experience made the trip unique and worthwhile. The fleet of boaters was
tight knit, supporting each other with a strong camaraderie. Everyone
celebrated the journey's end with pizza and drinks.
See you next June for our next "Day on the Blackstone”!
BRWA Supports Rain Gardens
By Pieter DeJong, BRWA Board Member
A rain garden is a shallow, planted depression that
catches stormwater runoff from impervious urban areas including roofs,
driveways, and parking lots. The water can be held up to 24 hours while
being absorbed in the ground. These structures reduce the amount of runoff
that would otherwise flow into storm drains and surface waters, thereby
reducing erosion, water pollution, flooding, and diminished groundwater
Photo by: Pieter DeJong
Over the past few years, as part of its education and outreach initiative,
the BRWA has been actively promoting the use of rain gardens for single
family homes, businesses, and public lands including State parks and
schools in the middle reaches of the Blackstone River. Rain gardens are
an effective, low-cost tool for improving water quality throughout the
Blackstone River watershed. They also encourage wildlife and biodiversity,
as well as tie together buildings, parking areas and their surrounding
environments in attractive and environmentally advantageous ways.
On June 14th, Pieter de Jong, BRWA Board Member, assisted the Blackstone
River Coalition (BRC) and the MA Department of Conservation and
Recreation (DCR) in planting a rain garden at Regatta Point Park along the
Lake Quinsigmond shoreline in Worcester. This rain garden was initially
designed to take stormwater runoff from a large parking lot and channel it
through the rain garden before discharging the treated runoff to the lake.
Peter Coffin, BRC Coordinator, and Peter Hinrichs, a landscape architect
and educator who designed the rain garden, coordinated the planting event
along with a number of volunteers.
According to Coffin,
- "What started out as a simple rain garden to catch
the runoff of a quarter acre grass lawn turned into a significant
bio-retention basin which treats one half acre of parking lot runoff that
previously ran straight into Lake Quinsigamond. The DCR is to be commended
for enhancing a relatively small project in a key location. By bringing
flow from existing catch basins in the parking through the rain garden,
water quality will be significantly improved before it flows into the lake.
When signage is installed later this year, thousands of people will
witness the benefits of infiltrating stormwater runoff into the ground."
The BRWA is also working with the BRC to seek grant funding support to
design and ultimately construct a rain garden at the River Bend Farm
Visitor Center in Uxbridge, part of the Blackstone River and Canal
Heritage State Park. The engineering design for the infiltration basin
would provide water quality benefits for runoff currently draining
directly into the Blackstone Canal from the parking lot and adjacent road.
In addition to capturing the first one-half inch of runoff for its water
quality benefit, the project would involve a landscape design to include:
landscape and wetland plantings; a walkable berm and deck overlooking the
infiltration basin, and a redesigned dock. Interpretive signage would be
used to promote the importance of water quality best management practices
(BMPs) at this highly visible location in the watershed.
Happy Birthday to a Blackstone Friend!
By Michelle Walsh, BRWA Board Member
On Sunday, June 14th the Blackstone River and Canal
Heritage State Park celebrated its 20th anniversary at the River Bend
Visitor Center in Uxbridge. Festivities during the day included a guided
canal walk led by Val Stegemoen who has since retired from his position as
Park Manager (see our retrospective in the next issue of the BRWA e-newsletter).
Other fun events that day included a hay wagon ride courtesy of Ironshoe
Farm, a Heritage scavenger hunt, and craft tables including one with
corn dolls. The BRWA staffed an outreach table with information on
invasive plants and more.
Visitors could explore the upper level of the Voss Barn and see the
exhibit “Following the Plough,” which explores the story of the Blackstone
Valley from farming to factory. This was followed by a concert featuring
the Blackstone Valley Bluegrass Band. An estimated 250 people attended
the Blackstone anniversary.
River Bend Farm Visitor’s Center, located at 287 Oak Street, offers
walking and hiking paths, canoe and kayak access, fishing, picnicking,
and wildlife viewing. In addition, the park staff offers interpretive
tours, special programs, and summer concerts. For more information, go to the
Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park website.
BRWA Lends a Hand to
By JoAnne Holahan, BRWA President
May 30th was a fantastic day to support one of the
BRWA's wonderful partners. We were happy to celebrate and participate in
Alternatives Unlimited’s 30th Annual Valley Friendship Tour. The fun event
was our chance to raise funds for Alternatives as well as for the BRWA.
The BRWA team included Tara Neal, Maggie and Jim Plasse, and JoAnne
Holahan. Energized by gorgeous weather, camaraderie, music and food,
they participated in the 5K Walk/Run raising a total of $1060. The first
$625 will be used to fund essential programs at Alternatives and the
remaining $435 is offered back to the BRWA in support of our work.
The BRWA team (left to right): Tara Neal, JoAnne Holahan, and Maggie and Jim Plasse.
For many years Alternatives has been an exceptional partner with the BRWA,
collaborating with the organization, development, and funding of events
like the annual Earth Day Cleanup and most recently the very successful
Family Fun Fishing Day and A Day Along the Blackstone.
The Valley Friendship Tour is Alternatives’ signature fundraising event.
This fundraising allows them to purchase the furnishings and special
equipment that enable the people they serve to have a real home in the
community; find and train dedicated volunteers; and implement critical
health and wellness initiatives. Funds raised from the Tour make a
difference in the lives of over 2,000 people with disabilities across
Central Massachusetts each year.
The BRWA was proud to provide a team in support of the good work of our
partner but we want to go even bigger next year. Please join the BRWA team
in 2016 for the 31st Valley Friendship Tour!
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
September is National Honey Month.
Time to celebrate the mighty honey bee and to consider planting native
flowers that will support these zoological heros. Bees are attracted to
blue, white, yellow, and purple colored flowers. Interested in learning
more? Contact the MA Beekeepers Association at
or the Worcester County Beekeepers Association at
Sundays through October.
Blackstone Valley Riverboat Explorer.
Free tours every fourth Sunday, free environmental education tours every
fourth Saturday, and special cruises including the Sunrise/Sunset cruises and
clambcakes and chowder Culinaria event.
Blackstone River Watershed Council. noon - 3:00 pm. Environmental Center- Sycamore
Landing 100 New River Road, Manville, RI . $25/boat.
Waters Farm Tour.
Blackstone Heritage Corridor GO! Program.
2:00 - 4:00 p.m. Waters Rd., Sutton.
Blackstone Paddle Club at the Blackstone Gorge.
Trip suitable for all experience levels and boat
lengths. Info at email@example.com
Full Moon Paddle.
Blackstone River Watershed Council. 7:30 pm. Environmental Center- Sycamore
Landing 100 New River Road, Manville, RI . $25/boat.
Cycle Blackstone 4-Hr Guided Bike Tour.
Lincoln to Woonsocket. Meet at Museum of Work and
Culture, Woonsocket, RI. Suitable for all fitness levels.
Water Quality Exhibit @ Waters Farm Fall Festival.
Manchaug Lake Association. 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Waters Rd., Sutton
Water Quality Monitoring.
BRC Volunteer WQM Program: Midreach Team.
9:00 a.m. - noon. Sample drop off at Tri-Rivers Family Health Center.
281 East Hartford Avenue, Uxbridge.
Cycle Blackstone 4-Hr Guided Bike Tour.
Burrillville. Meet at Jesse M. Smith Memorial
Library 100 Tinkham Rd Harrisville, Rhode Island. Suitable for all fitness levels.
BRWA Board Meeting.
6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 287 Oak St., Uxbridge.
BRWA Annual Meeting and Member Appreciation Event.
1:00 - 4:00 p.m. South Grafton Community House,
Rt 122 A (Main Street). Gene Bernat will give a presentation and tour for
the Living System Lab at Fisherville.
www.facebook.com/livingsystemslab) Non members welcome (small fee).
THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL
Blackstone Partners Celebrate River's Ongoing Restoration
Congressman James McGovern headlined a panel of
government speakers on Sunday, July 26th that were gathered at the scenic
Blackstone Gorge State Park in Blackstone, MA to help the Blackstone River
Coalition (BRC) celebrate the many successes of its "Campaign for a
Fishable/Swimmable Blackstone". Addressing a crowd of 75 river
advocates, McGovern stressed the value of working together to promote
sound land use throughout the Blackstone River watershed. He emphasized
that a healthy Blackstone is great for families and for our economy,
expressing his confidence that the economy will grow again through our
collective protection of this natural resource, just as it did during the
industrial revolution when the river's power was harnessed for mills and
The Watershed Model, a component of the BRWA "Watershed and Us" education
program, demonstrated by (left to right) Board Member Pieter
DeJong, President Joanne Holahan and Program Coordinator Susan Thomas.
Matthew Sisk, Deputy Commissioner for the MA Department of Conservation
and Recreation began his remarks to the crowd by identifying himself as a
member of Trout Unlimited, a Scout, and an avid Outdoorsman. He touted
the role his agency has played in both combatting invasive Asian water
chestnut in Rice City Pond in Uxbridge, MA and serving as a national model
in developing the Blackstone Greenway, which, when completed, will connect
Blackstone, Millville, Uxbridge and Worcester to Woonsocket, Providence
and Pawtucket, all the way to the Narragansett Bay.
Lisa Primiano, Chief of the R.I. Department of Environmental Management’s
Planning and Development Division, spoke of the great value of voluntary
efforts to round out limited state and federal resources as we all embark
on an exciting new chapter of the Blackstone's restoration. She said
RIDEM hopes to be back in the short term to celebrate some new accomplishments.
Meghan Kish, the Superintendent for the newly created Blackstone Valley
National Park, which includes the river and its tributaries, stated,
“although the final park boundaries are not known, the river is the
backbone of the National Park and it's an incredible opportunity that has
been handed to us to create a new model for incorporating a river into a
The speaking portion of Sunday's Celebration finished with Charlene
Cutler, Executive Director of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc.
She announced the Corridor's "GO!" Program, slated for the month of
September, which will offer the public 109 opportunities to explore the
Blackstone Valley including biking, paddling, hiking, and much more. The
"GO!" Program is being promoted as an economic tool to connect people with
many vibrant businesses throughout the 25 communities in the Valley.
Tom Bik of the Metacomet Land Trust and Blackstone Selectman Bob Dubois
each addressed the crowd at the start of the Celebration event explaining
how the bi-state park at the Blackstone Gorge was made possible through
the vision and dedicated efforts of the Land Trust and towns to protect
this unique resource from development. Tom offered guided hikes of the
trails that run along the river leading to breathtaking views of the
dramatic hemlock-wooded cliffs.
Also participating in Sunday's Celebration were Mass Audubon, Audubon
Society of Rhode Island, Blackstone Headwaters Coalition, Blackstone River
Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone, Save the Bay,
Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, RiverzEdge Arts, Worcester Tree
Initiative and The Greenway Challenge. These grassroots organizations
provided educational materials as well as fun kid activities. Wonderful,
river-based music was provided by William Monroe & Lee Aver, while
Cumberland-based Seaside Johnny’s made delicious food available to all.
The BRWA booth manned by Board Secretary and Past-President Jim Plasse.
Peter Coffin, BRC Coordinator, captivated the crowd with a historical
journey on the Blackstone utilizing a 50' mural of the river and its
tributaries crafted by Riverzedge Arts in Woonsocket and laid out along
the Gorge's boat ramp. He wove together a story of fish and people, dams
and factories, conservation and water quality, showing everyone that the
Blackstone's ongoing restoration will always require an understanding and
appreciation of how this mighty river has existed over the centuries.
Primarily thought of as a springtime event, vernal
pools are fascinating systems to study year round. Here are two resources
to go to if you want to learn more about the frogs, salamanders,
invertebrates and more that call vernal pools home for part of the year.
One is the Vernal Pool Listserv, which you can read about at
http://www.vernalpool.org/listserv.html. It is moderated by the MA
Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program and by the Vernal Pool
Association. It's a great place to post questions and sightings. Another
resource is a blog entitled Life in Shallow Waters
written by Steve Schwartz.
Pond Map Updating
The MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is
currently updating its pond maps that were originally developed 60-70
years ago using simple sonar readings. Today, with advanced
(and time saving) GPS technology and statistical programs, ponds including
Lake Singletary in Millbury/Sutton and Pratt Pond in Upton are being
remapped. Depth information will be greatly improved for these maps that
will be available in color and will provide current access locations.
View maps at
Picnicking at the Gorge
By Michelle Walsh, BRWA Board Member
One sunny September afternoon last year after school was out, I
packed a picnic and took my daughters to the Blackstone Gorge. The summer
would soon be turning into fall and I wanted to make the most out of the
remaining days. Driving through the thickly settled neighborhoods in
Blackstone, we arrived at the parking lot for the Gorge and all the hustle
and bustle of life was quickly left behind. Located on Country Road off of
Route 122 in Blackstone, the Gorge is a part of the Blackstone River system.
This particular area has a lot to offer because of its natural beauty,
untouched landscape, wooded trails, and boating opportunities.
We unloaded the picnic from the car and sat at our favorite spot right below
the dam named “Rolling Dam.” This is where flat rocks are just elevated enough
so that you can see the serene waters in the pond above the dam, and where
the white water crashes over the rocks and boulders below. Just sitting there
listening to the noisy rush of water and the beauty of our surroundings is so
relaxing. In recent years, the boat ramp area has been improved and many
people come to kayak or canoe in the pond area or venture further upstream.
We finished our snack and headed to the gorge below to wade in its cool
waters. Here, we took our time climbing over the rocks because they can be
very slippery, but it was so much fun that we forgot! My oldest daughter fell
into the shallow water but no harm was done. After a while, we took a break
and sat on the flattest rock we could find to see if there was any sign of
life in the little pools of stranded water. Just a few water bugs skimming
along the surface. Along the steep river bank, there is an abundance of tall
trees that block much of the sunlight creating shadowy patterns on the water
that makes it feel that much cooler. We waded over to the riverbank and
decided to walk back along the wooded trail that parallels the river’s edge,
passing by two people relaxing in their camp chairs. Packing up our picnic
lunch, we vowed to come back again very soon.
The Answer is Blowing in the Wind.
We all want to reduce our energy usage. A common tip
is to make your electric dryer more efficient by cleaning out the lint trap
on a regular basis. But we can take this one step better. Hang your
laundry out on the line during these warm summer months. If you don't want
the look of permanent structure, all you need are two trees or other sturdy
posts and a strong rope. And don't forget the clothespins. Autumn may turn
colder and less sunny, but the increased winds will compensate, so don't be
in a hurry to put away those clothespins when you turn your calendar to
September or even October.
“It is not half so important to know as to feel.” Rachel Carson
A dry river bed in the Kruger Park © val Odendaal www.valodendaalart.net
Although this painting depicts a river in Africa, we in New England
are still able to grasp the extreme dryness. Viewing it evokes a sense of
thirst and hopefully a moment of reflection on the need for protecting
water quantity in our own Blackstone River watershed. We should all show
as much concern for how much water is taken out of our tributaries and
main stem by public and private users as we do for the potential
pollutants that are put into the watershed.
Views & opinions expressed in linked websites do not necessarily
state or reflect those of the BRWA.
Your input is crucial to this eNewsletter. If you have a local
watershed-related story, information of interest to our subscribers, or
comments about this publication, drop an email to the editor.|
The Blackstone River Watershed Association (BRWA) has a mission to
engage, educate, and advocate for improved water quality in the Blackstone
River Watershed; its objectives are to:
The BRWA eNewsletter is published monthly by the Blackstone River Watershed
Association. BRWA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
- Engage the public in watershed stewardship activities,
- Educate members, supporters, and residents on watershed protection strategies, and
- Advocate to local residents, community leaders, non-profit partners, and
state regulators to take actions that will help to ensure our waterways continue
to provide healthy habitat and enjoyable recreational opportunities.
Editor: Susan Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org
Mailing address: BRWA, 271 Oak Street Uxbridge, MA 01569
Phone: 508-278-5200 Web: www.thebrwa.org
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