As though our recent adventure out to Northampton with the Blackstone Heritage Corridor was not enough, Corridor volunteers were treated to a spring Thank you picnic (during Volunteer week–the timing was perfect!) at the Kelly House in Lincoln, RI, along the Blackstone Bikeway. Somehow we ended up with one of the very few bright and sunny days in a week of near monsoon-like weather, which allowed for a trip along the bike trail for the Bike Ambassadors, a personally guided tour of the area surrounding the Kelly house by Ranger Kevin Klyberg, and a delicious outdoor picnic dinner as well.
The scenery surrounding the Kelly house, along the Blackstone Bikeway in Lincoln (1075 Lower River Road, Lincoln, RI, for those of you who are not able to access the spot by foot or bike) is stunning. The Kelly house is a former farmhouse, now a museum helping to document the history of the Blackstone valley.
Soaring over the river and the museum is a massive arched bridge that leaves me breathless each time I see it.
Ashton Mills is directly across the Blackstone River from the Kelly House and of course, the Blackstone River and Canal flow on either side of the museum.
Volunteers can often feel somewhat disconnected from others who help the same organization they work with, but hosting events such as this offered an opportunity for those who help with bike rides, kayaks tours, bird walks, trail hikes, community cleanups and more, to all meet together. At this recent gathering I met long-time volunteers, as well as more recent participants. We even recruited a new possible new volunteer when someone saw our gathering, stopped by to see what was going on, and indicated that he uses the bikeway often. I suggested he talk to Suzanne, our champion volunteer coordinator, about signing up to participate as a bike ambassador. He headed off, his little girls in tow, with the volunteer paperwork in hand and a big smile on his face. That’s how it can start. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Park Ranger Kevin Klyberg grew up directly across the Canal from where we had this celebration, and Suzanne shared with us a photo of Kevin in his backyard, taken when he was a child, that showed in the background the old barn near the Kelly House. On the day of our picnic, we admired the new barn, newly constructed at the site of the old, long-gone barn. This new barn will serve many purposes in the coming days. Expect to hear more soon about programs that will be offered in this new program space, on the banks of the Blackstone Canal.
Kevin gave the volunteers a guided tour of the grounds near the Kelly house, pointed out where the original mill had been located, and helped pull together some of the historical events that influenced how textiles mills came to be built in the Blackstone Valley.
When the bike ambassadors returned from their tour along the bike path, we admired the new bike trailers purchased with grant funds received from the Narragansett Bay Commission, through their Earth Day Community grant.
Super volunteers Dick and Jill did the research to find just the right trailers that will be located at spots along the bikeway for volunteers’ use to help with “Trash Responsibly” cleanups along the bikeway. Jill also found a bunch of bright orange winter hats and sewed volunteer patches on them,
which she shared with others at the picnic.
Hot soup on a cold spring afternoon was a great hit at the picnic, as were the tasty sandwiches assembled for us by the Garfield Social Club Suzanne asked if we could have sandwiches NOT wrapped in plastic, in accordance with Bonnie’s passion for the “Trash responsibly” campaign that she has championed in the Blackstone Valley. To Bonnie’s delight, the owner of the Garfield Social Club was able to source biodegradable sandwich wrappers, and our event did NOT add loads more plastic to area landfills.
The picnic was the last official duty for the corridor’s director, Megan, DiPrete, and we sent her off to her new duties with best wishes, and hopes she will not be a stranger to the Corridor.
Bonnie finished off the evening by reading us a story. those of us who know Bonnie and and the ideas she has proposed, which have taken root and blossomed, understand the significance of this story to her, and to the rest of us as well.
Although it’s been years since many of us have enjoyed story hours, we all settled in to listen.
Bonnie’s “Bark Ambassador,” Rocksie, had a little trouble seeing the pictures, but soon settled in.
Suzanne often talks about having “volun-tears” and as Bonnie read, Suzanne managed to hide most of her tears behind sunglasses. But we knew.
To learn more about volunteering for the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, head over here
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed two guides to Easy Walking trails in Massachusetts, “Easy Walks in Massachusetts 2nd edition,” and “More Easy Walks in Massachusetts.” A native Floridian, she came north for college and snow! Marjorie is a Certified Legacy Planner with LegacyStories.org, and is the producer of numerous veterans interviews for the Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s History Project. http://www.marjorieturner.com