New section of greenway open, ready for winter recreation

New section of greenway open, ready for winter recreation

Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. Volunteer Coordinator Suzanne Buchanan, left, and Marketing Director Bonnie Combs enjoy a new, recently completed 3.7 mile segment of trail on the Blackstone River Greenway.
Cleanup planned for MLK day of service

BLACKSTONE, Mass. – A 3.7-mile section of the Blackstone River Greenway was finally completed last month, marking the end of a four-year, roughly $26 million project by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation.

The path, which is now open for all types of recreation, runs from Canal Street in Blackstone to Adams Street in Uxbridge, Mass., following the Southern New England Trunkline Trail. Eight bridges and one culvert were repaired as part of its creation, including the Triad Bridge in Millville, Mass., which runs over the Blackstone River and Providence and Worcester Railroad.

It is the latest segment of what proponents hope will someday be a 48-mile continuous and dedicated bike path running from India Point Park in Providence to downtown Worcester, Mass.

For now, guests to this somewhat isolated but historically rich segment of the trail can park at the former Blackstone Depot at 93 Canal Street.

“There are so many things along this part of the river that connect our historical story,” said Ranger Chuck Arning of the National Park Service. “The availability to be able to hike with a family easily to the Millville Lock is huge.”

The Lock, built out of granite with hand-cut stones mostly fashioned by Irish stone masons, is considered the best-preserved along the 50-mile Blackstone River. Built in the 1820s as part of the Blackstone Canal, it is one of few remaining of the 40 locks built in a waterway that once linked Worcester to Providence. And even many locals are unaware that it’s there.

“It’s in the middle of nowhere,” said Arning. “It’s in the middle of the woods. And it’s really marvelous.”

Arning said the Greenway’s ability to draw attention to, and link such historically valuable features in the Blackstone Valley, is what makes the path so important to the current process of building a National Park.

“It’s a great preservation tool,” Arning noted. Plus, “It’s a fantastic experience to be able to walk and see things.”

Another unique and historically important feature in the nearly 4-mile stretch is the Triad Bridge, where three planned train lines cross paths: the PW Lines, SNETT and the Grand Trunk, a line that was never completed because the owner of company died on the Titantic in 1912.

Guests to the trail will also have the chance to view birds of the Blackstone and visit the recently built playground on Mendon Street in Blackstone, which features hanging ropes and boulders for children to climb.

The concept for this segment of the Greenway has been in planning since the early 1990s, when construction for varying pieces of the trail first began. Funding for the project came from a number of different organizations including the Blackstone Heritage Corridor and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation.

In 2013, five bridges in Blackstone were repaired and repainted as part of the project, the two Factory Pond Bridges, the northern Canal Street Bridge, a Blackstone River Bridge, and the St. Paul Street Bridge, and in 2014 were fashioned with wood decks and safety railings. New bridges were built across Kane Court and Main Street and a tunnel was built under Church Street in Blackstone.

Bikers who navigate an on-road segment of the trail from Rivers Edge Recreational Complex in Woonsocket through the city, following signs along River Street and onto Canal Street in North Smithfield, could now ultimately ride from Cumberland to Uxbridge, Mass., marking another small victory for greenway proponents. The 48-mile stretch to Worcester would run the length of the National Heritage Corridor, following along the Blackstone River and/or Canal wherever possible, and is considered a legacy project for the BHC.

The Blackstone River Greenway will also ultimately connect to the East Bay Bike Path, allowing bikers to continue to Bristol and Newport in Rhode Island.

The segment from Blackstone to Uxbridge was completed the first week of December, so officials from Mass. DCR have put off an official ribbon cutting until spring. But construction gates are now down, and the path is available for winter recreation including snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Parking lots accessing the trail – which, in addition to Canal Street, also include a lot at 44 Hope Street in Millville and a lot at 1 Adams St. in Uxbridge – are expected to be plowed through the winter.

Earlier this month, a volunteer-led exploration of the trail sponsored by BHC with staff from Blackstone River & Canal Heritage State Park attracted more than 30 people.

And on Monday, Jan. 16, Martin Luther King Day, BHC will host a cleanup event in the area, picking up litter on streets leading to the Greenway including Canal Street, Bridge Street and St. Paul Street. The event begins at 11 a.m. and has been organized in honor of the Martin Luther King Day of Service.

“There’s this idea that on Martin Luther King Day, you should think of it as a day on – on a day off – so you really should get out and volunteer as a way to honor King’s legacy,” explained Alison Horrocks, a member of the Department of the Interior Volunteers in Service to America, for the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.

The meeting spot for the cleanup is at 15 St. Paul St. in Blackstone. To register, contact BlackstoneVISTA@gmail.com or call 401-439-0865.

In 2013, five bridges in Blackstone, Mass., were repaired as part of the project, the two Factory Pond Bridges, the northern Canal Street Bridge, a Blackstone River Bridge, and the St. Paul Street Bridge, and in 2014 were fashioned with wood decks and safety railings. Pictured below is a marker located on the greenway.

A group exploring a new segment of the Blackstone River Greenway earlier this month stands on a bridge along the trail.