January 24, 2020

Officials convene in Pawtucket to discuss R.I.’s first national historical park

PAWTUCKET — A month after President Obama signed legislation establishing Rhode Island’s first national historical park, officials held the first meeting on Monday to work out the boundaries of the park along the Blackstone River and develop a management plan.

The meeting was held in downtown Pawtucket, a stone’s throw from Old Slater Mill, which is regarded as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in America and will be a key piece of the Blackstone River National Historical Park. The park will also include the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket, as well as three more Rhode Island sites and three sites in Massachusetts.

Officials from both states, as well city and town leaders and representatives of community groups, were at the meeting to start laying the groundwork for the national park, the 402nd in the United States.

“We want to make sure everyone has a voice — the mayors, the planners for all the communities,” said U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat who wrote the act that created the new park.

He said the park will be an important cultural resource — and a tourist attraction.

“We can use the park to educate visitors about the history and culture of Rhode Island,” he said. “It’s another reason to come to Rhode Island.”

The park is located within the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, which runs from Worcester to Providence and was established in 1986. The idea for the park was hatched in 2003 as part of an effort to better protect the cultural sites along the river, said Bob Billington, director of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council.

“The history was always here, but we always wanted the opportunity to tell it on a national level,” he said.

Those many years of work on the proposal for the park have given stakeholders a head-start in the current effort to set it up, said U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.

“Our park will begin with this very deep and very rich history of relationships,” he said.

Meghan Kish, the National Park Service superintendent who will oversee the park, said the priorities in the planning process include delineating the park’s boundaries and formulating an overall identity for its separate pieces that include sites in Slatersville and Ashton in Rhode Island and Whitinsville and Hopedale in Massachusetts.

On Twitter:



Officials convene in Pawtucket to discuss R.I.’s first national historical park