With the full support of the Congressional delegations from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Senate Bill 1942, known as the National Heritage Area Act, was approved by Congress and sent to President Biden for his signature. The bill passed the House on December 22 by a bipartisan vote of 326 yes and 95 no.
The Blackstone River Bikeway has become an increasingly popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.
Thanks to the leadership of Congressman Jim McGovern, who chairs the House Rules Committee, no Democrat voted against the measure, and a majority of Republican House members supported the bill.
A day earlier, the bill was approved unanimously in the U.S. Senate, with Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island leading the four senators who represent the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (BHC).
The bill requires a standard for the designation of National Heritage Areas. It also establishes a National Heritage Area System through which the Department of the Interior may furnish technical and financial assistance to local coordinating entities, such as Blackstone Heritage Corridor Inc., to support the establishment, development and continuity of National Heritage Areas.
The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, which spans twenty-five communities from Worcester to Providence, was established in 1986 and recently observed its thirty-sixth birthday. While the passage of S.1942 continues to make BHC eligible for federal funding, appropriations for the Corridor have declined in recent years.
There are currently fifty-five National Heritage Areas across the U.S. and four others in Massachusetts—Essex, Freedom’s Way, The Last Green Valley and the Upper Housatonic. With the passage of S.1942, forty-five NHAs have been extended for fifteen years, through September 30, 2037, seven new NHAs were designated, and robust protection for private property rights was included.
The Blackstone River, the spine of the Corridor, is so much cleaner today than it has been in many years, with dramatic reductions in pollution. Paddlers now have seventeen put-ins to access the scenic beauty of the river. The well-used Blackstone River Bikeway/Greenway between Worcester and Providence is nearly half complete. BHC Inc. is coordinating efforts in both states to finish the project. These natural byways are tremendous assets to the quality of life in the communities of the Blackstone Valley. BHC’s many programs provide paddling and biking experiences for people of all ages and abilities.
BHC tells an unmatched story of cultural evolution in partnership with dozens of local organizations and communities. Through wayfinding signs, interpretive panels, brochures, exhibits and five heritage centers, BHC recognized the past and points the region to the future.
BHC was a driving force behind the creation of the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, one of the country’s newest national parks. This unique park celebrates the story of innovation that literally changed how people worked and lived from the earliest days of the nation to the present. BHC manages the Park’s award-winning Volunteers-in-Parks program and is the only federally-designated partner to the new Park, which is based at the Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
To learn more about BHC, visit blackstoneheritagecorridor.org.
Blackstone section of Trunkline Trail up next
The Baker-Polito Administration announced just before departing office that the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will break ground on the Blackstone section of the Southern New England Trunkline Trail (SNETT) this spring.
The project is estimated to take approximately three years to complete. The $11.3 million project runs from the Saint Paul Street Bridge in the town of Blackstone to the Massachusetts/Rhode Island state border and is the final half mile of an a roughly 4.2-mile section of DCR’s Blackstone River Greenway.
Additionally, this section of the Greenway is critical to the connection with Rhode Island’s Blackstone River Bikeway and also provides a regional link to Douglas and the state of Connecticut through the SNETT.
Great Backyard Bird Count set
Get your binoculars ready! The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor and Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park invite all interested residents to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. This event starts Friday, February 17 and ends on Monday, February 20.
There are multiple ways to share your bird sightings:
• Tag your photos on social medial with the hashtag #BRVBirds.
• Share your eBird checklist with BirdingtheBlackstone.
Learn more about this worldwide initiative and how to participate at BirdCount.org.
Nature Exploration Walks and more
Save the dates of Saturday, February 18 and Wednesday, February 22 for Nature Exploration Walks with Ranger Allison of the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park and Molly Cardoza. Watch for info on social media, the Park’s events calendar and in the Park’s next newsletter.
Also, Maple Sugar Days returns on Saturday, February 25 and Sunday, February 26 at River Bend Farm, 287 Oak St., Uxbridge
A Bark, Branches and Buds Winter Tree and Shrub ID Walk will be held on Saturday, March 25 from 10:00 .m. to noon at the Blackstone River State Park, 1075 Lower River Road, Lincoln, Rhode Island.
On Sunday, February 5, Slater Mill will be featured on “Treasures Inside the Museum,” a production of Rhode Island PBS. Tune in at 7:00 p.m. EST.
From Rhode Island PBS: “Slater Mill in Pawtucket, RI is recognized as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. In this episode, learn more about the people who made the area what it was and how the machines changed the face of manufacturing everywhere. Plus, discover what makes some of the machines on exhibit so rare, and examine some of the artifacts from the 1890 Cotton Centennial. Learn more at www.ripbs.org