So many deserve praise for new National Park

So many deserve praise for new National Park

The Blackstone River Valley just received the best Christmas present, the designation of our National Historical Park. This is a gift that will spread far and wide along the riverbanks and benefit many communities as well as the State of Rhode Island in tourism and economic dollars.

I grew up in the city of Lowell, Mass., and I witnessed first-hand what the presence and prestige of the National Park Service can bring to a community and a city. Like the Blackstone River Valley, Lowell was an industrial city with cotton mills that were fueled by waterpower. The heart of Lowell's story as well as other industrial areas and National Park Service sites that have industry as its theme, begins here in the Blackstone River Valley with the first successful cotton spinning mill, Slater Mill. There has been National Park Service presence here since the designation of the John H. Chafee Blackstone River National Heritage Corridor in 1986, and the story of the beginning of America's Industrial Revolution and the Blackstone River has been told by countless dedicated volunteers and advocates who continued to push for full National Park Service status. This will be a unique NPS area in that it encompasses two states as does the Heritage Corridor and will build on the partnerships already established through the Heritage Corridor. It will bring jobs, a renewed sense of pride, and will help to boost the economy through tourism.

There are many that should be congratulated and thanked for this feat; among those is none other than Robert Billington, President of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council. He has shared his passion for the Blackstone Valley with many and has been the top if not the head cheerleader for the Blackstone Valley for many a year. He never tires of promoting the place he loves whether on the river with the many education programs or dressed as Conductor on the successful Blackstone Valley Polar Express.

However, there are many more from the dedicated volunteers with the Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone; Donna Williams and the Blackstone River Coalition of Worcester; all the cities and towns and nonprofit partners within the Blackstone River Valley and the respective mayors, Council members (past and present); the many dedicated volunteers and advocates working with the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission and the past and present staff members including past directors, James Pepper; Lawrence Gall, and Michael Creasy and Jan Reitsma.

Thank you to Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse; Representative Cicilline, and before him Gov. Lincoln Chafee and most importantly his father, the late Sen. John H. Chafee, for which the corridor is named.

All deserve a big round of applause for their passion and commitment to bringing this bill to fruition.

Patti McAlpine