The Friends of the Pawtuxet is a group of concerned citizens who promote the health of the Pawtuxet River as a valuable resource and encourage its responsible recreational use.
A Brief History of the Friends of the Pawtuxet
The Friends of the Pawtuxet was formed in 1991 by a group of Edgewood residents who wanted to involve their elementary age children in their immediate environment. The river was a natural resource that was sadly hidden from view and treated as a dumping ground; toxic waste from the Ciba-Geigy chemical plant and other upstream polluters had flowed unchecked into the Pawtuxet for generations. The parents soon recruited other river advocates from Pawtuxet Village and other adjacent communities, and began cleaning up the accumulated debris, marking trails that had been used informally as public rights-of-way, organizing canoe events to get people out on the river to appreciate its natural beauty, and calling for stricter enforcement of clean water laws. By involving our children in caring for the river, we hoped to encourage a healthy lifestyle that included informal outdoor recreation and an appreciation of the effect of citizen action.
For 25 years, the FOP has published a newsletter, The River Rag, organized Earth Day cleanups, coordinated trail improvements with local scout and school groups, and planted dozens of trees. The first trees were planted on the banks of the river behind Shaw’s Plaza in 1997, with funds from the City of Warwick and the help of Brownie Troop 36. Until the dam was removed from the mouth of the river at Pawtuxet Village, the FOP organized twice-yearly canoe events at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet that enabled hundreds of families and individuals to canoe on the gentle run from Rhodes up to Warwick Avenue and back towards the cove. After the river was freed from the constraints of the dam, it became more challenging for beginners to navigate and the events were discontinued. However, many experienced boaters continue to canoe and kayak on the river, and fish will soon be returning to spawn upstream.
In 2000, the Friends completed their most ambitious project: the removal of asphalt and the creation of a buffer zone between the Pawtuxet Industrial Park parking lot and the river. This greatly reduced runoff and tainted snow melt, and the planting of native trees and shrubs restored the wildlife corridor along the banks. Trail walkers no longer had to traverse a long stretch of asphalt. Soon, turtles were nesting along the bank and other native plants were springing up on their own.
The FOP is an all volunteer, informally organized group with a focus on action and advocacy. There are no dues or membership rolls; all are welcome to join us and donations for tree plantings and trail improvements are gratefully accepted. Our only operating expenses are the maintenance of our new website, membership in the Environment Council of Rhode Island, and minimal printing costs for the River Rag. We are now under the fiduciary aegis of the West Bay Land Trust, a 501 c(3) non-profit, so donations are tax deductible.
The river and trail are vastly different than when we began our stewardship 25 years ago, but there is still a need for vigilance and continuing upkeep of those gains. Please join us for our next event; check the calendar for dates and details.
See you on the trail.