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Riverside Mills Brownfield site before the restoration work began and before construction of the bike path.

Custruction underway at Riverside Mills...soon to be Riverside Park.

Cutting the ribbon on the new bike path!

Volunteers working to set new plants along the river at Riverside Mills Park.

Kids playing in the new playground at Riverside Mills Park.

Milestones on the Woonasquatucket River Greenway

In 2009, significant changes can be seen along the Woonasquatucket River. A 5.7-mile bike path (with 2.4 miles off road) can be followed from Waterplace Park to Lyman Avenue in Johnston. 15 acres of contaminated land and 37 acres of abandoned public lands are restored and contributing to the vitality of the neighborhoods through environmental, recreational and youth job training programs. The Greenway promoted the restoration of abandoned industrial sites, reuse of historic mill buildings and residential stabilization, with over $300 million in new commercial, residential and mixed-use projects that are in various stages of development. Improvements to the ecosystem include remediation of Brownfields, restoration of riparian buffers and wetlands, and restoration of fish passages in the lower Woonasquatucket River.

These accomplishments reflect the strong partnerships and contributions by private and public entities to the operating and capital costs of this project. Some highlights and milestones that contributed to the implementation of the Greenway are:

1994: Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds selects the Woonasquatucket River Greeway Project (WRGP) for ultimately 7 years of funding as part of its Urban Parks Initiative. The NPS selects the WRGP to be a partner in its Rivers and Trails Conservation Program

1995: Senators Claiborne Pell and John Chafee sponsor a meeting with all Federal agencies to promote federal agency collaboration with the project.

1996: Selection of the WRWG as part of EPA-New England Urban Environmental Initiative. RI DEM secures Brownfield Pilot funding for studies at target sites along the Woonasquatucket.

1997: City of Providence allocates $1.67 million for the WRGP. Master Plan completed following 18 meetings over 2 years with community residents.

1998: Selection of the State of Rhode Island and WRGP as one of 16 Brownfield Showcase Communites, resulting in EPA providing on site personnel and funding for Phase II studies and remedial design for two Brownfield sites. Designation sponsored and secured by Senator Jack Reed.

1998: Designation of the Woonasquatucket as one of 14 American Heritage Rivers, prompting creation of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council. Designation sponsored and secured by Senator John Chafee.

1998: WRGP bicycle path designated a project in the "Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century" (TEA 21) with funding of $3.1 million

1998: Merino and Donigian Park are restored as functioning public parks with new equipment and active recreational features. Dyerville Park is transformed into Buttonhole Golf Course, a short course dedicated to serving inner city residents.

1999: Selection of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed for RI DEM’s watershed pilot program, resulting in Watershed Riparian Buffer survey completed in 2001, and Freshwater Restoration Strategy pilot for the watershed in 2003.

2000: Senator Reed secures $1 million grant from HUD for remediation of Riverside Mills site.

2000: City of Providence allocates $1 million in bond funds to the WRGP

2000: Placement of Centredale Manor in North Providence and Woonasquatucket River on the National Priority List due to dioxin contamination of the land and river sediment in Johnston and North Providence segments.

2001: Incorporation of Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council as independent entity.

2002: Completion of first on-road segment of bicycle path.

2003: NRCS commits to restoration work at Riverside Mills as part of American Heritage River Initiative.

2004: NRCS selects sites in Providence and North Providence for wetland restoration.

2004: RI DEM completes Greenspace study for every watershed community.

2005: NRCS adopts plans for fish passages/dam removal at first five obstructions on the river.

2005: Construction begins on off-road segment of the bike path.

2005: US Transportation Bill allocates $11 million for the WRGP bike path funding, secured by Senator Jack Reed and Senator Lincoln Chafee.

2007: Dedication of first off-road bike path in Providence and Johnston– 2.4 miles along the Woonasquatucket River.

2008: Dedication of the first fish passage on an urban river in Rhode Island at Rising Sun Mills in Providence.

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