Cricket Field cleanup highlights future plans

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The Friends of Cricket Field and the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC) recently turned out in force for their annual Spring Clean Day to continue their restoration efforts at historic Cricket Field off Riverside Avenue.

Part of WRWC’s Clean Days on the Greenway series, the cleanup took place Saturday, April 8, at Cricket Field and included spring cleanups, mulch mobbing, invasive plant management and sharing information on how this park could connect to the Woonasquatucket River Greenway, a walking and biking trail system.

“This is our annual spring cleanup, and we did a bunch of plantings last fall, so we’re prepping the field and getting ready for spring,” said Lisa Aurecchia, director of projects at the WRWC. “We’re trying to help spruce up the neighborhood.”

More than two-dozen volunteers spent the morning cleaning the multi-purpose park, located where Johnston, Smithfield and North Providence meet. Historically, the field was once a place where cricket was played, followed by baseball and softball.

The park, which cost about $1.2 million to build and was completed in 2013, was developed through a partnership between the WRWC and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. Cricket Field has been eyed as a key location proposed to join a growing network of bike paths in Rhode Island and New England.

While the WRWC and state bike path advocates hopes to route the Greenway through Johnston by reusing an original railroad right-of-way, their plan has been met with resistance from local residents and political leaders over safety concerns, amongst others. But the organization has also identified several alternate routes, including on and off road options to extend and connect the existing Greenway currently ending at Lyman Avenue in Johnston to Cricket Field.

According to the WRWC, multiple towns, including Providence, North Providence, Smithfield, North Smithfield and Glocester, have submitted letters of support to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to connect the Greenway through their towns to Cricket Field. The organization hopes that, as momentum grows, communities interested in connecting bike paths can join local efforts to beautify parks such as Cricket Field in hopes of one day being able to enjoy open spaces during a ride across Rhode Island.

The WRWC, a non-profit that works to encourage, support and promote the restoration and preservation of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed, recently celebrated a huge historic milestone. Last December, after nearly three years of construction costing nearly $500,000, an S-shaped, easy to use passage for fish was completed in Johnston adjacent to the Manton Dam off Goldsmith Street.

For the first time in nearly 150 years, herring have been spotted swimming into Manton Pond through the fishway. Those who want to see the fish are encouraged to visit the fishway now while the herring are making their run.

The Cricket Field Spring Clean Day is part of WRWC’s Clean Days on the Greenway series of environmental cleanup projects. For more information visit www.wrwc.org.

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