WRWC: Cricket Field park opens up river to the public

WRWC: Cricket Field park opens up river to the public

Future bike path extension one step closer

JOHNSTON - A new park that is rapidly approaching completion on the shore of the Woonasquatucket River will restore long lost access to the river, say representatives for the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council.

The new recreation spot at the old Cricket Field, which is supposed to be done next month, should provide the impetus for a new era along a riverfront that was once famous for its festival days, water carnivals, and river races, said Lisa Aurecchia, project manager at the WRWC.

"This is an American Heritage River, one of just 14 in the nation, and no one even knows about it," she told The Breeze. "We're really trying to highlight it to give people access to this amazing resource."

As in the old days, this new park across from the Greystone Social Club is designed with the idea that people should enjoy the river and not be cut off from it, said Aurecchia, whose organization is working closely on the $1.2 million project with the Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Management.

"We'd definitely love to do some programming here," said Aurecchia, adding that programs here should be designed to "engage the residents" and make the area a neighborhood center of activity again. A boat launch and overlook area will help the WRWC with its longstanding mission of showing off the Woonasquatucket River and its diverse wildlife, she said.

The ultimate hope, said Aurecchia, is that the addition of the park at Cricket Field will land the riverfront the big prize, a bike path extension that might one day link the Northwest Bike Path to the Blackstone River Bikeway through a series of trails.

Bike paths are one of the deciding factors for many families looking at homes, and increase values of nearby homes by tens of thousands of dollars, said Aurecchia.

"We truly believe that these bike paths are economic engines for towns," she said.

The Northwest Bike Path currently ends at Lyman Avenue in Johnston, but state officials have indicated that they would one day like to extend the path to Cricket Field and even beyond.

One point of discussion between representatives from the WRWC and the Department of Environmental Management is what to do with the existing trees and underbrush right along the water's edge, on the borders of the new Cricket Field park, said Aurecchia. The plant life contributes to the ecosystem along the river, and there is understandably some reluctance on the part of the DEM to clear it out.

But Aurecchia and others from the WRWC say they think a healthy balance can be found between maintaining the environment they care so much about themselves and creating greater visibility along the riverfront. What will the point of a new park be, she asked, if residents who come here can't see it very well?

The two parties are planning a meeting shortly on "opening up the view," said Aurecchia, and she's confident a compromise can be reached.

Comments

Fortunately these are the kinds of projects that take dedicated people doing a lot that will benefit us all.
Thanks for having vision for the future.

...IS TO LEAVE IT ALONE!! And, I’d like to see the data that supports that “Bike paths …increase values of nearby homes by tens of thousands of dollars”, because I think it’s the opposite. Having owned a home abutting the Blackstone River back in the early 80’s, I, like many others, was tricked into thinking that the bike path was ALL good. It’s not. For one thing, it allowed strangers to legally intrude on areas that were previously unreachable that were in close proximity to my home, whereas there was no good vantage point to observe if they were up to no good. Before the bike path, the river was primarily visited by outdoorsman. Now, there are all sorts of unsavory characters performing despicable acts all along that path at all hours of the day. And, perhaps if the bike path had been designed with more of a natural theme to the uninhabited setting, it would have served a better purpose. But, as soon as the project was approved and all of the environmentalists had claimed a victory in the name of conservation, the heavy equipment showed up and began to forge an asphalt highway, complete with guard rails, road signs, and painted lines all along the naturally beautiful riverbanks. The noise and trash that are generated is just another perk of the new bike path that didn’t exist before this great project that everyone seemed to be in support of. I mean, who’s against saving the environment? Please do not be fooled by the “business man in environmentalist’ clothing”, because the hype is just that. It’s more about the money than anything else!