Senator Reed also announces new $8,000 federal grant to support a new National Park Jr. Ranger and Outreach Program within the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park
Federal funds will be matched by a $10,000 contribution from Blackstone, Inc., the Corridor’s non-profit organization, to help inspire the next generation of conservationists and preservationists
WASHINGTON, DC – In recognition of his lead role in establishing the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park as part of the U.S. National Park system, U.S. Senator Jack Reed was recognized twice in the last week for writing and passing the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park Establishment Act.
Over the weekend, the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission’s (RIHPHC) presented Reed with the John H. Chafee Public Service Award, which is named after former U.S. Senator John H. Chafee, who also served as the 66th governor of Rhode Island and as Secretary of the U.S. Navy. And today, Reed received the National Park Heritage Award from the non-partisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). This award acknowledges Reed’s Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park Establishment Act and support of the other public lands bills included in the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which Reed was instrumental in crafting and passing.
“I’d like to thank both the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission and the National Parks Conservation Association for these awards. Establishing this park took perseverance and collaboration, and we still have a lot of work ahead of us to preserve this national treasure and the natural beauty of the Blackstone River Valley. I hope the park will bring greater recognition to Rhode Island’s unique history and create new opportunities for tourism, education, and recreation,” said Senator Reed. “Creating the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park is also a fitting way to honor John H. Chafee, who led the effort in 1986 to designate the Blackstone River Valley as a National Heritage Corridor.”
“It’s an honor to recognize Senator Reed for championing this historic diversification and expansion of our National Park System,” said NPCA President and CEO Clark Bunting. “As the National Park System readies for its 100th anniversary, we’re so proud of people like Senator Reed who work with colleagues across the aisle and across the country to protect and enhance America’s ‘best idea.’”
Once finalized, the multi-site Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park will become Rhode Island’s first national historical park, encompassing areas of the Blackstone River and Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket as well as significant sites in nearby Rhode Island mill towns, including Slatersville (in North Smithfield) and Ashton (in Cumberland), and Whitinsville and Hopedale in Massachusetts.
In 2005, Senator Reed pushed legislation authorizing the National Park Service to conduct a Special Resource Study (SRS) to evaluate the eligibility of resources in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor for possible inclusion in the national park system. The study process began in March 2007 in consultation with the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission and its staff. In 2008, a team of academic scholars visited the region and offered recommendations. In June 2010, the National Park Service prepared preliminary study findings which laid out a variety of options.
In 2011, Senator Reed ascended to the chairmanship of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment, which oversees the U.S. Department of Interior and the National Park Service and was instrumental in extending federal support for the Corridor when it was scheduled to sunset. Over the years, Senator Reed has also brought multiple U.S. Secretaries of the Interior up to Rhode Island to see firsthand the proposed park area and the importance of preserving the Blackstone River Valley.
Earlier this year, Senator Reed and National Park Service officials convened a meeting at the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center, across the street from Slater Mill, with state officials, community representatives, and interested stakeholders to begin laying the groundwork for determining the scope of the park’s boundaries and developing a long-term park management plan.
After extensive public input and collaboration between the National Park Service, governmental and non-profit partners, and willing sellers and donors of private land, the park’s administrative boundaries will be determined by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Reed’s law also says that the park’s management plan shall consider ways to use preexisting or planned visitor facilities and recreational opportunities developed in the existing National Heritage Corridor.
With the National Park Service approaching its Centennial in 2016, Reed announced that Rhode Island will receive $8,000 in federal funding to support a new National Park Jr. Ranger and Outreach Program within the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park. The federal funds, which will help improve visitor services and support outreach to new audiences, will be matched by a $10,000 contribution from Blackstone, Inc., the Corridor’s non-profit organization, to help inspire the next generation of conservationists and preservationists.