Interview with Conservation groups
Group - Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council
Person - Donald Bums, Board President
How active is your group? We have an office, three full time staff people and a budget of about $200,000 not including one time projects such as dam removal and construction of fish ladders. We have frequent events in the community including cleanups and opening new facilities. We have a program of River Rangers that trains young people to both care for the area and educate others in environmental activities. Thousands have participated in various activities.
What is the most interesting or picturesque place on your watershed? Personally I like the Gorge where the river leaves Georgiaville Pond in Smithfield. There are so many places that appeal to others including quiet tree lined locations not just in the northern areas hut even down into Providence. It is enlightening how peaceful and attractive the river can be everywhere.
What has been your greatest achievement with this group or any other conservation group that you have belonged to? It has been seeing the people in Olneyville realize the beauty of the river that flows through their challenged neighborhood and how they have become so involved in making it a source of community activity and pride.
What would be your greatest goal if funding was available? While there are many individual goals, the best way to meet so many of them is to have our own office and educational center that would really establish us as a permanent organization with established facilities.
What could an interested individual do to help or- volunteer for your group? From my experience you have to find out what the volunteer's interest and capabilities are to direct them to the right activity in which they can feel satisfied and most beneficial. There are so many jobs from quiet activities in trail work and fish counting to direct mentoring and large public events. Find the job that fits.
What overall environmental issue concerns you the most? Getting people to appreciate that progress can be made if we work hard together. That may not seem to be a specific issue, but the needs are so many and so varied that I would stress effort and cooperation and the recognition that progress is being made. Look to our success and it will drive the future. There have been marvelous achievements in Olneyville as an example.
Does your group offer any educational or recreational opportunities that people should not miss? Once someone gets involved in our activities they will see the opportunities. This week we have children who have raised trout in Providence releasing them in Smithfield. The bike shed on the Bike Path teaches young people how to maintain and repair their bikes. Artists in the community have involved others in signage and other markings. We offer many canoe and kayak trips on the river. There is a great variety of activities that appeal to so many individual interests.
Finally let me say why I think that the Woonasquatucket is unique. It is a short river, 19 miles, that has so much variety. It starts in an Audubon nature area, winds past farms and rural areas, goes through increasingly developed communities and then flows into the city. It includes two superfund sites, Providence's poorest neighborhood with a large immigrant population and ends at the famous WaterFire location near expensive new high rise residences. We have everything in a small setting and are an ideal lab to see what efforts succeed.
Interviewed by Conservation Chairman Bill Luther