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Pawtucket – A litany of community supporters, elected officials, state and federal agency representatives were in attendance as the City of Pawtucket held a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the reconstructed river wall and newly implemented bicycle path located behind Pawtucket City Hall.
The project stems from the historic flooding that inundated cities and towns throughout New England in March of 2010. That flood and other weather events over the years damaged and severely comprised the river wall that protects not only City Hall but Slater Mill as well. Through the efforts of Senator Jack Reed and Rhode Island’s federal delegation, Pawtucket was able to access funding from both the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Relief and the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Those federal dollars were allocated to reconstructing roughly one quarter-mile of wall along the Blackstone River running through the heart of the City.
During the reconstruction process, several members of the community encouraged and advocated for the City to do more with the space behind City Hall. This discussion with the community, along with funding from the federal, non-profit and private sectors, led to the implementation of the bicycle path that runs alongside the river wall. “The City is committed to seeing the bike path expanding into the City to provide Pawtucket’s urban residents with these alternative means of transportation. In doing so, we make ourselves more desirable to young professionals and millennials seeking different ways of commuting in and out of Pawtucket and into neighboring communities,” said Mayor Grebien in his remarks.
“Multi-modal transportation is something that has grown to be a very important issue lately, particularly in urban communities such as Pawtucket. Thanks to the efforts of the Riverfront Commission, Bob Billington of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and Aaron Hertzberg, Executive Director of the Pawtucket Foundation, this beautiful new section of the Blackstone Valley Bikeway is not just scenic…it is functional and indicative of the sweeping positive changes that are happening here in Pawtucket,” continued Grebien.
The next phase of this bike path would see it extended to the south, out to Roosevelt Avenue and eventually all the way to Town Landing on Taft Street. To the north, the path would continue through Central Falls, to connect the path to the already existing Blackstone Valley Bike Path that ends at the Cumberland / Central Falls line. While the transportation aspect of this bike path has value, the recreational aspect of this path will also prove to be valuable to the City as families, bicycle fitness enthusiasts and sight-seers alike would be able to capitalize on the connectivity between the communities.
After a brief introduction from Mayor Grebien, Senator Jack Reed spoke of his role in helping Pawtucket secure federal funds for the reconstruction and the need to aid cities and towns in the wake of events such as this. Pawtucket Riverfront Commission Chair, Nate Watson, spoke next of how the Commission was able to coordinate with the various federal, municipal, state and local agencies that worked together on this project. Pam Hughes, also of the Riverfront Commission and the driving force behind the addition of the bike path and beautification of the space behind City Hall, remarked on the effort to make the space behind City Hall not just functional, but attractive. Aaron Hertzberg, Executive Director of the Pawtucket Foundation, spoke eloquently of the collaboration and partnership between the public, non-profit and private sectors to increase value and services for residents. Finally, Lori Urso of Slater Mill, which shares the river wall with Pawtucket, spoke of the tremendous partnership Slater Mill now has with the City of Pawtucket and the continued partnership on projects like this going forward.
Of the many in attendance, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea came to show support for the completion of the project. State Representatives Carlos Tobon, Jean Phillippe Barros and Katherine Kazarian were also in attendance alongside Pawtucket City Councilors Mary Bray, Mark Wildenhain and Sandra Cano.
- Mayor Donald R. Grebien