Heritage in America's Great Outdoors:
Saturday, April 21, 2012
On October 13, 2011, bills were filed in both the United States Senate and House to “establish the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.” The new multi-site park would encompass the Blackstone River and its tributaries; the Blackstone Canal; Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket; the historic villages of Slatersville and Ashton, Rhode Island; and Whitinsville and Hopedale in Massachusetts. Also, President Barack Obama recently launched the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to develop a 21st-century conservation and recreation agenda and to reconnect Americans to nature.
As these two efforts proceed, it is time to consider how they will impact the Blackstone River Valley. What would a new national park look like? Whom would it attract? How do stewards of historic places accommodate recreation, and how do stewards of natural places include historic interpretation and preservation? How does protecting special places advance economic development?
Conference sessions considered these questions and hear the latest developments on the national park bid. Other session topics included recreational paths in historic places, green rehabilitation projects, cemetery preservation, and efforts to restore Rhode Island’s preservation tax credit program. Field trips explored the landscapes and architecture of the Blackstone River Valley. Destinations include the well-preserved mill villages, farms, and factories that make the region distinctive. Local tours strolled down Woonsocket’s historic Main Street and sample the best of the city’s industrial and architectural heritage, indoors and out.