Skip to main content

The Yankee Express

Blackstone Heritage Corridor Launches 1.3-Million-Dollar Legacy Campaign

Dennis Rice (L) and Devon Kurtz (R) enjoy a ride along the Blackstone Heritage Corridor

On May 30, 2024, a group of interested people gathered in Blackstone at the latest bikeway segment under construction. Dennis Rice, Volunteer-Chair, and the Board of Directors of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor announced the public launch of a 1.3-million-dollar “Legacy Campaign: Reimagining Our Future.” The four-year campaign will support four key initiatives that will allow the Corridor to expand its efforts to preserve, promote, and celebrate the Valley’s historic, natural, and recreational resources. During the first year, private individuals, family foundations, and corporations contributed $390,000, with an additional $130,000 donated so far this year.
Key Initiatives include:
Creating New Attractions  The Blackstone Heritage Corridor has kept the history of the Valley alive using wayside exhibits, interpretive signs, and heritage center displays. Now, after nearly 40 years, they are starting to show their age. It is time to replace, update, and create new ones. Recently, new signage was placed at the trail heads along the Blackstone River Greenway in Blackstone, Millville, and Uxbridge. A project coordinator will be hired to oversee the 200 signage projects in the region.
Recruit, Train, and Support Volunteers  The Blackstone Heritage Corridor manages the Volunteers-In-Parks program, a highly respected program of the National Park Service. On any given day, you will find volunteers in a wide variety of places doing amazing presentations, activities, and programs from leading bike rides, historic tours, bird-watching hikes, and even cemetery conservation. According to Dennis Rice, “This new funding will allow us to increase training opportunities, improve programs, invest in uniforms, and increase recruiting materials. Today, we have 250 volunteers, and by the end of the Campaign, we’ll have over 300.”
Wm. Eric Breitkreutz, Superintendent of Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, emphasized the importance of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor. “The tremendous impact of the Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) Program greatly benefits the Valley through its many activities. The Corridor’s partnerships with tribes, municipalities, state agencies, and other nonprofits are game changers when it comes to leveraging scarce resources and maximizing outreach that celebrate and educate residents and visitors to this nationally and internationally significant story of the Blackstone River Valley.”
Invest in the Partners  There are over 50, mostly small, non-profit organizations working separately to protect and appreciate the beautiful and historic Blackstone River Valley. “Just think of the positive impact for our 25 communities, if we unite our 50-plus partner organizations and coordinate our actions and resources with a common vision,” said Dennis Rice. Through the expansion of our Partner Grant Program, we can improve our partner’s amenities, storytelling, access, and enjoyment for our visitors and our communities.
Advocate for the Blackstone River Valley Bikeway/Greenway  Championing for the completion of the 48-mile Bikeway/Greenway/Multiuse Trail from Worcester, to Providence, RI. Dennis Rice imagines, “taking a ride on a beautiful spring day from Worcester to Providence, with many stops to explore nature, discover history, and have ice cream. The Rhode Island portion is about 85 % complete; Massachusetts is unfortunately a bit behind. But progress is happening right here in front of us, connecting Blackstone to Woonsocket. But miles to go before we’re finished, it will take sustained advocacy by a passionate public, and we need the help from all of you!” This ambitious project will take sustained advocacy to see it completed. The Blackstone Heritage Corridor is creating a new position, Bikeway Advocate, to work with cities and towns, individuals, and state agencies to see this project done.
Michael F. Debroisse, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Woonsocket, RI, is an active user of the Blackstone River Bikeway/Greenway. “For many years, we’ve appreciated the help of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor and their continued advocacy for the completion of the Bikeway/Greenway. The Blackstone River Bikeway/Greenway has been an important driver of tourism, and its economic impact has benefited the residents of Woonsocket, RI,” he said.
Long celebrated as the Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the Blackstone River continues to power economic, cultural, and environmental advances. Executive Director Devon Kurtz highlighted the three I’s of the Valley: Invention, Innovation, and Industry. “These driving thoughts have long made the Blackstone River Valley a truly amazing place. Through preservation, promotion, and celebration, the Corridor champions the myriad stories that continue to build our understanding of the past, present, and future of the region,” Kurtz said.