Press & Media

Blackstone Heritage Corridor Announces John H. Chafee Heritage Award Recipients

The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor announces the recipients of its 2021 John H. Chafee Heritage Awards: Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02); U.S. Senator Jack Reed (RI); John Marsland of Cumberland, RI; Ross Weaver of Sutton, MA; and a class of Painting and Design Technology students at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School (BVT).  

Created by the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, the John H. Chafee Heritage Award honors the late Senator’s legacy and recognizes individuals, groups, or students who have worked on projects that promote cultural heritage, environmental conservation, and the quality of life in the Blackstone River Valley. Past years’ recipients have celebrated community leaders, preservation heroes, business partners, environmental advocates, and students whose achievements resulted in public benefit. These heroes have demonstrated the Valley’s long tradition of leadership and inspiration. 

At a ceremony held at Blackstone Valley Tech on April 11th, BHC’s Board Chair Richard T. Moore presented the prestigious Chafee Award to Congressman McGovern, a class of Painting and Design Technology students at BVT, and Ross Weaver. On April 22nd, John Marsland received his award at the premiere of “Kittacuck Speaks” at Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland, RI. Marsland co-directed the short film that tells the story of the Blackstone River from the perspective of the river itself. A ceremony for Senator Reed will take place later this spring. 

Seventeen sophomore students from the Painting and Design Technology program at BVT were nominated by Blackstone Heritage Corridor’s Board of Directors to receive the John H. Chafee Student Award for their participation in an interpretive map restoration project in the town of Whitinsville, MA. The project was led by BVT instructor Tom Lamont and involved the restoration, printing, and installation of a 4’ x 3’ map of the Whitinsville Historic District created by town historian Ken Warchol. Lamont took on the project as an educational opportunity for the students and as a way for the school to give back to the community. The sign is located on Church Street, across from the Whitinsville Social Library. 

Sutton Town Manager James Smith nominated Ross Weaver to receive the 2021 John H. Chafee Heritage Award for his gravestone conservation work in Sutton’s historical cemeteries. “Ross has become Sutton’s unsung hero in our rural world of cemetery conservation,” Smith noted. “He has led a group of 18 dedicated volunteers who have logged nearly 1,000 volunteer hours, and collectively they have made amazing progress in local historical cemetery conservation. He has worked tirelessly to preserve our cemeteries while promoting cultural heritage.” 

John Marsland, president of the Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone (BRWC/FOB) and a resident of Cumberland, RI, was nominated by Judy Hadley of Lincoln, RI, to receive the 2021 John H. Chafee Heritage Award. According to Hadley, John has been a dedicated volunteer and steward for the Blackstone River for 32 years and has served many years as president of the BRWC/FOB. 

In her nomination, Hadley noted one of John’s first volunteer efforts came in 1990 when he attended a cleanup at the Wilbur Kelly House in Lincoln, RI, and it was the impetus for him to create the Friends of the Blackstone, which later merged with the Blackstone River Watershed Council in 2006. “John’s dedication to matters such as stewardship and recreation is demonstrated in his appreciation for the psychological and even the philosophical benefits of engagement with the river and its watershed. These are values that John sets forth in his daily life and the watershed programs he supports from “Connecting with Canoes” to Blue Mind, and too many more to mention. John has also reached out to the local Native Americans to connect with them and invite them to be a part of BRWC/FOB’s events and cultural heritage programs.” 

“Both Senator Reed and Congressman McGovern have been staunch supporters of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor and are the lead sponsors in their respective branches of legislation to re-authorize the Corridor for another fifteen years,” explained Richard T. Moore, BHC’s Board Chair about their nominations for the 2021 John H. Chafee Heritage Award. “Both have strong records supporting historic preservation and environmental stewardship. Congressman McGovern is also a sponsor of legislation supporting all National Heritage Areas, and Senator Reed is the “father” of the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park which is located within the National Heritage Corridor.” 

Congressman Jim McGovern, who represents the 2nd District of Massachusetts and serves as the Chair of the powerful House Rules Committee, has been a longtime advocate for the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor since even before his election to Congress.  The Congressman has been a strong and effective advocate for continued authorization of the Corridor, a longtime supporter of improving the water quality of the Blackstone and its tributaries, and a leader on a range of environmental issues.  As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Congressman McGovern has supported efforts to save bees and other pollinators which are critical to natural resources and agriculture.  In many ways, he has demonstrated the same high standards of public service and environmental leadership as the late Senator John H. Chafee as well as the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.   

Senator Jack Reed has served Rhode Island since 1991, first as a congressman for the 2nd Congressional District and then as a Senator since 1997. As a member and Chair of the Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, the Senator has been a longstanding champion and supporter of the Corridor and led the call for the creation of the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park in 2014. The Senator has turned down cabinet positions, preferring to continue to directly serve the people of Rhode Island. His constant enthusiasm and dedication to his constituents and the state of Rhode Island follow in the legacy established by Senator Chafee.   

Nominations for the 2022 John H. Chafee Heritage Award will be posted later this year. To learn more about the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, visit BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org. 


 For photos, contact Bonnie Combs at [email protected].