By JOHN HOWELL
Victoria Sullivan says this is going to be a great year for corn. She should know. Sullivan has worked at Morris Farm on Warwick Avenue through the droughts and years when the …
By JOHN HOWELL
Victoria Sullivan says this is going to be a great year for corn. She should know. Sullivan has worked at Morris Farm on Warwick Avenue through the droughts and years when the weather ruined the crop not mentioning the last couple of years when the pandemic put a huge dent in the business.
In addition to fields on Warwick Avenue, Morris Farm has fields in Exeter and that’s where the corn being sold Thursday in Warwick was grown. It’s firm, fresh and sweet.
But as John “Pete” Morris, Sullivan and others at the farm are excited about this year’s crop, they’re also apprehensive that road work will keep customers away. For the past week, a digital sign at the intersection of Warwick and Oakland Beach Avenues has advised motorists that the work is coming and to expect delays.
Timing of the work – the widening and clearing of swales on both sides of the road – troubles Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur. He asks why now, just as the Morris Farm stand offers a wide range of locally grown produce and as the farm comes into its busiest season.
Ladouceur contacted the administration to see what could be done. Asked about it last week, Mayor Frank Picozzi said the Department of Transportation issued a contract and the work is needed. Rep. Joseph Solomon Jr. also made inquiries on behalf of the farm and, as Morris reports, was told the road won’t be closed at any time, but it’s going to happen.
Skurka Construction that has the DOT contract started work Tuesday, trimming vegetation and installing a protective roll delineating the area of work alongside the road. David Skurka assured Morris that two-way traffic will remain open and he would work to address any concerns Morris might have.
Homeowners along the pleasantly rural stretch of Warwick Avenue leading up to West Shore Road say this isn’t the first time the DOT has sought to channel water to a creek that feeds into Buckeye Brook and from there to Mill Cove. Sue Racca who lives opposite the farm said work to the swale has been done on at least two prior occasions with limited success since, she said, the swale is deepest furthest away from the stream.
“Water doesn’t flow uphill.”
In fact, when last worked on, the Raccas lost the shutoff to their gas service. This time they’re concerned for their sprinkler system.
Sullivan said the farm had been told the work would be completed this spring.
Morris said he was told the work would be done in the spring to which he replied that’s a good thing since “July and August are our busy times.”
“They’ve been fooling around with this for years,” Morris said. “We’ll see what happens.”
The timing is also a bummer for Sullivan.
“We can’t postpone when the corn is going to come in,” she said.
Asked Thursday if the DOT could postpone the work until after the corn season, DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin responded by email Friday that the work is scheduled for now.
He stressed, “We are not closing the road, access to all properties will be maintained at all times and work crews typically finish each day at 3:30 p.m.”
He added no work is planned on nights, weekends or holidays.
“We are only working on the swales and not working on any of the pavement,” he added. A release issued Monday adds, “Our work crews will only operate along short sections of the road at one time, and police officers will be present to assist traffic. No work will be done to the pavement.”
It says, “The Department has been in contact with the farm and property owners and will assist them in any way possible. The work needs to be done during the driest time of the year, which is during the summer months.”
RIDOT will be restoring the drainage swales along this section of Warwick Avenue, between Oakland Beach Avenue and West Shore Road. The work involves removing sediment and some of the soil from the swales and replacing it with loamy sand and seeding that will better treat storm water and allow it to infiltrate into the groundwater. This will reduce storm water pollutants that flow along the swale into Knowles Brook, and eventually into Narragansett Bay.
The release puts the cost of the project at approximately $554,000, saying it will take six to eight weeks to complete.
“It is part of RIDOT’s commitment to invest more than $100 million over 10 years to improve its storm water systems and reduce pollution from the roadways that enters Rhode Island’s lakes, rivers and Narragansett Bay,” the release reads.
As for the fresh corn, with temperatures forecast to hit 90 Morris expects more this week. “It will be jumping,” he said. Apart from whatever the DOT has planned, Morris is watching out for the birds that, he said, can clean out a field of corn in a day and a half. He’s got to scare them away.
And then there are the coyotes.
Oh yes, says Morris, they’ll eat corn.
After all it’s corn season, so make a point to get some, too.
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