Thursday, September 8

Thursday thanks

This week I'm thankful for a hanful of R words: recovery, rebirth, restoration, rebound. All for a river.

Starting in the late 1700s, the Blackstone River was a primary force driving America's Industrial Revolution. Alongside the river, a transportation canal (completed in 1828) served as an aquatic highway in the decades before internal combustion engines made rail and auto travel possible. The river bustled with activity. However, 200 years of industrialization took its toll.
Ashton Mill: a reminder of the river's past.

When I was young, I was a Girl Scout for a year. That year my troop did a river cleanup. As young as I was, I recall being disgusted by the sheer volume of refuse piled in the Blackstone and along the riverbanks. The junk included everything from old tires to rotting metal, and a kitchen sink, not to mention the chemical sludge lurking just beneath the water. Back then no one fished in the river. The fish were too toxic to eat.

The Blackstone wasn't the only dying river in the 1970s and 80s. Other rivers, like the Cuyahoga in Ohio (1969), had caught fire.

Baby snapping turtle: a sign of the river's future
But over time, things began to change. Some of the mills closed. Others adopted more environmentally-friendly practices (many with a nudge from new environmental laws). The first Earth Day took place, raising public awareness of environmental concerns.

A group of citizens began the long process to clean up the river and turn its banks into a multi-use bicycle and pedestrian trail. In 1998 the first segment of the path opened. Today a runner is likely to see turtles, birds, and deer along the path, not car parts and kitchen sinks.

Running photo: what the river trail looks like today
More than a decade ago, some of my first runs took place on the newly opened bike path. I may have moved far away, but the trail along the Blackstone remains one of my favorite places to run.

This past weekend, while at the river, I was lucky enough to spot a just-hatched baby snapping turtle. The baby snapper was no longer than my index finger. She'll toughen up as her shell hardens, but she was tiny and vulnerable in her just-hatched state. Fortunately today, unlike that cleanup day 25 years ago, the river will be a good home for her.

In researching the background for this post, I learned that earlier this summer the National Park Service began the process to turn the path into a national park.

The river has come a long way in a couple of decades.

This is change I'm thankful for.

1 comment:

  1. Heh. I saw "canal" and have to do some snooping around later (I <3 canals) but this is awesome - that's fantastic news that the National Parks Service is trying to turn it into a national park. (I do love local waterways, me). Looks like a great place to run/walk/cycle now. Hurrah!!


Penny for your thoughts?