Exploring RIC’s backyard: the Woonasquatucket River Greenway

The Fred Lippitt Woonasquatucket River Greenway, located just over a mile from the Fruit Hill Avenue entrance to Rhode Island College, is considered one of the area’s best-kept secrets.

From left: RIC student Aaron Buckley; Hannah Resseger, professor of Africana Studies; and RIC students Wilmari Marin and Malinda Bridges are shown with Amanda Blevins, program assistant for the Watershed Council, during the walk/ride event.
The greenway is a five-mile bicycle and pedestrian path leading into downtown Providence. It provides people with an opportunity to enjoy nature and an environmentally friendly commute that many RIC students do not take advantage of, said Malinda Bridges, a senior justice studies major at the college.

“I think having a connection to Rhode Island College would be beneficial both to the Greenway, and to the students themselves,” said Bridges, who is seeking to publicize the bike path for an Africana Studies project focusing on sustainability and connecting with nature.

The greenway – the first paved off-road path in both Providence and Johnston – is located across the street from Scrambler’s Restaurant on Greenville Avenue.

According to a recent Providence Journal article, bikeways are positive community resources because they increase property value, boost local business sales and attract tourists.

The Woonasquatucket River Greenway has become a popular location for local residents and other people throughout Rhode Island by linking recreational and green areas to Waterplace Park and downtown Providence.

Students walk towards the Woonasquatucket River during the walk/ride event.

About the Africana Studies project

Malinda Bridges’ project in Hannah Ressenger’s Africana Studies class was inspired by the PeaceJam Foundation, committed to creating young leaders looking to create positive change in their communities and around the world. PeaceJam participants have the opportunity to work with Nobel Peace Laureates to discuss and tackle tough issues facing the planet – from basic needs, to social justice and human security,

PeaceJam is attempting to create one billion acts of service, and each member of Ressenger’s class is going to contribute one act.

Bridges’ project for the class was further inspired by Wangari Maathai’s novel, “Unbowed: A Memoir,” discussing her life from childhood until 2004, when she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, which she received for her contributions to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

Maathai, the founder of the Greenbelt Movement in Kenya, planted over one million trees in Kenya in order to keep the ground stable, and give back to the environment and people by providing fruit and shade.

“[Maathai] focused a lot on the environment and protecting green space in Kenya, so connecting my project to her, I am focusing on protecting the green space in Rhode Island,” said Bridges.

Maathai died in September, and the Africana Studies planted a tree in her memory between Buildings 5 and 6 on the RIC campus.

“[The Greenway] is beautiful, especially if you like being in nature or bird-watching, and the river is very peaceful,” added Bridges, who takes advantage of the Greenway’s proximity to RIC and often goes walking or running on the path.

Bridges said the Greenway could be used as an extension of the green space already available on the RIC campus. She cited numerous student complaints about the lack of parking and activities available on campus, along with the college’s recent green efforts, as reasons the Greenway should be advertised to the RIC community.

The Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, which has been working with Bridges on her project to draw attention to the Greenway, has worked to rejuvenate both the Greenway and the Woonasquatucket River, a major natural resource that runs next to the bike path.

The council has used a significant amount of funding to clean the area, because there have been issues with chemical dumping and spills there in the past, said Bridges.

On Dec. 3, the Watershed Council held a walk/ride on the bike path similar to the multiple Green-Up, Clean-Up events that have been held at RIC in the past. These events have been used to bring community volunteers together to clean and beautify local areas.

“[The council] got the community involved with cleaning up the Greenway by picking up leaves and garbage, and by making sure that people are paying attention to what is going on around it,” said Bridges.

At the walk/ride, Amanda Blevins, program assistant for the Watershed Council, spoke to volunteers about the organization, gave a general history of the Greenway, and discussed the possibility of extending the path further into Smithfield, said Bridges. The Watershed Council is currently trying to obtain funding for the Greenway’s extension.

Bridges said her class will be putting up a map of the Woonasquatucket River Greenway in the Student Union soon.

For more information about the Fred Lippitt Woonasquatucket River Greenway, contact Alicia Lehrer, executive director of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, at (401) 861-9046, or alehrer@wrwc.org.