May is Declared Storm Drain Awareness Month in MA and RI

Blackstone Heritage Corridor Expands Its Trash Responsibly Program to Protect Storm Drains
Storm Drain

Whitinsville, MA (April 15, 2019)  – The month of May has a little more meaning this year in the Blackstone River Valley. By way of Gubernatorial Proclamations issued in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the month of May has been declared Storm Drain Awareness Month.

          In the middle of planning for spring cleanup season, Bonnie Combs, marketing director at the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (BHC), sought out to file Gubernatorial Proclamation requests both states to declare the month of May as Storm Drain Awareness Month. By mid-April she learned in the same week that both were reviewed and approved, fulfilling a long-term goal to create awareness about the role storm drains play in carrying litter and harmful pollutants to the waterways of the bi-state Blackstone River Watershed, and eventually to the bay and ocean.

          “In 2015, BHC launched ‘Trash Responsibly,’ a program to create awareness about the impact litter has on our natural resources here in the Blackstone River Valley,” Combs explained. She is the organization’s marketing director and also manages the Trash Responsibly program. Combs works with the 25 communities of the National Heritage Corridor to plan and coordinate cleanup and recycling events, and over the years she has brought awareness to  fishing line and Styrofoam recycling programs. This year she decided was the year for storm drains.

          When planning the Blackstone River Watershed-Wide Cleanup with the Blackstone River Watershed Association and Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone this year, Combs suggested they offer an “Adopt-a-Storm Drain” option so that volunteers could pick their level of commitment. “It was a way to introduce the concept and the photos of dirty storm drains on the flyer sure got people’s attention.”

          For the first year of the Storm Drain Awareness Month campaign, Combs hopes that people will choose to adopt a storm drain on their street, in their neighborhood, in their town, or even where they work or go to school. “I’d love to see people choose a storm drain that they see often and pledge to keep it clean of litter and debris and be mindful of harmful pollutants that find their way to the drains,” Combs shared. “I’m hoping once people make the connection between what lands on the grates of the storm drains and how it and other pollutants wash down and end up in our rivers, streams and oceans, that they’ll want to help prevent that from happening. It will help protect local wildlife, improve water quality and eventually help prevent the spread of what is known as Plastic Ocean.”

          For anyone looking to actively engage in the storm drain awareness campaign, Combs suggests selecting a storm drain and using the Google Maps feature to determine the GPS coordinates. “I’d love to receive photos and map info to track participation and support. I’d really like to see how far this campaign spreads and how much of an impact it can make.”

With the help of volunteers from BHC’s Volunteers-In-Parks program, educational programs are planned for Storm Drain Awareness Month utilizing the Enviroscape table-top watershed model, a hands-on, interactive activity that demonstrates the sources and effects of water pollution. “We have volunteers who are trained to present this program to school and community groups,” Combs explained. For anyone looking to learn more about the Enviroscape and receive training, a Volunteer Skills Workshop has been scheduled for Monday, May 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Blackstone Heritage Corridor office, 670 Linwood Avenue, Whitinsville, MA. RSVP to Additional water-quality education programs are being planned for Wednesday, May 15 at the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center at Worcester, 3 Paul Clancy Way, Worcester, MA, at 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. To register and learn more, contact Bonnie Combs at

          This storm drain awareness initiative was inspired by a particular storm drain she recalls walking by on the way to a meeting a few years ago to discuss plans for a recycling event. “It was a double-wide storm drain and it was covered with litter,” she remarked. “It was at a busy crosswalk and it was also stenciled in English and Spanish with the message ‘Keep It Clean – Protect Your Water.’ I snapped a photo and that image has stuck with me all these years.”

          One year later, at an Earth Day cleanup, the Blackstone River Watershed Association was giving away “Dwayne the Storm Drain” coloring books produced by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) and Combs brought a copy back to the office to add her to research. She later connected with MWRA’s School Program Coordinator and received shipments of the book for her own environmental programming. Earlier this spring, “Dwayne the Storm Drain” books were brought to the Green Team students at Taft Elementary School in Uxbridge, MA, for a reading and discussion about pollutants that impact water quality and how the students could help by adopting a storm drain in their neighborhood.

          A couple of years ago, Combs also worked with the Blackstone River Watershed Association to borrow storm drain stencils for a volunteer project with a local church group looking to do community service. “I had contacted the Uxbridge Department of Public Works about stenciling a storm drain near my office that fed right into the Mumford River and they were very supportive,” Combs recalls. “The project was very eye-opening for many after we did the stenciling, we cleaned up the area where litter had washed into the river.”

After volunteering one year with Save the Bay on a storm drain marking project in Woonsocket, RI, which involved the application of round discs above the storm drain with epoxy glue, Combs received a box of the same discs from the Blackstone River Coalition and used them for a “Kids Trash Responsibly” program in Blackstone, MA, and Millville, MA.

          This year, Combs requested that the organization’s annual application for the Narragansett Bay Commission’s Earth Day Grant be focused on storm drain marking supplies to help bring the program to more communities. In early April, BHC received word the grant was approved.

          When seeking the proclamation request in Massachusetts, Combs reached out to State Representative David Muradian, who once helped her acquire one for Save the Frogs Day which is April 30 every year. In 2016, Combs had participated in Roger Williams Park Zoo’s citizen science project for monitoring frogs and worked with Rep. Muradian that spring on acquiring the Gubernatorial Proclamation. “I am happy to partner with Bonnie to bring awareness and education about this important issue,” stated Rep. David Muradian. “Storm Drain Awareness Month will serve as a reminder about the importance of reducing liter and pollution within our communities.”

In Rhode Island, she reached out to Senator Joshua Miller on the matter, who introduced a Senate Resolution declaring May as Storm Drain Awareness Month. Combs also worked with the Rhode Island Governor’s office on a Gubernatorial Proclamation.

          For more information on the storm drain campaign, volunteer opportunities to assist with storm drain marking, and other Trash Responsibly initiatives, contact Bonnie Combs at or call 508-234-4242.




Blackstone River Watershed-Wide Cleanup Set for April 13

A bi-state effort is planned for a watershed-wide cleanup of the Blackstone River Watershed on Saturday, April 13 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The Blackstone River Watershed Association (BRWA) and the Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone (BRWC/FOB) are partners with the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (BHC) which is helping to organize the cleanup. Both watershed groups are bringing volunteers together in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island to clean and help protect the rivers, streams, ponds and lakes.

There will be some dedicated sites chosen for cleanups, but volunteers are encouraged to adopt a site and/or adopt a storm drain in their community. All three organizations are partnering on an effort to raise awareness about storm drains and how they impact water quality. Volunteers will be supplied with safety equipment and once registered, site permission and plans for removal of collected litter will be obtained.

For Massachusetts communities of the watershed, volunteers will work with the Blackstone River Watershed Association. Meet at Blackstone Heritage Corridor offices at 670 Linwood Avenue, Whitinsville, MA, for supplies and volunteer check-in. Register at For more information, on the Massachusetts portion of the cleanup, contact Bonnie Combs at

For Rhode Island communities of the watershed, volunteers will work with Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone. Volunteers will meet at either the Blackstone River Watershed Council Education Center at 100 New River Road, Manville, RI, or at Scott Pond, 19 Lower Road, Lincoln, RI. Register at For more information, contact Keith Hainley at

BHC Celebrates National Bike Month by Hosting Adaptive Cycling With All Out Adventures


Adaptive Cycling

 Whitinsville, MA (March8, 2019) – In celebration of National Bike Month in May, Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (BHC) is partnering with All Out Adventures and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Universal Access Program to offer a series of five complimentary adaptive cycling events on the Blackstone River Bikeway/Greenway.  Three rides will depart from the new Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center at Worcester and two will depart from the Blackstone River Greenway in Blackstone, MA.  Scheduled dates include Wednesday, May 1 (Worcester); Wednesday, May 8 (Blackstone), Wednesday, May 15 (Worcester), Saturday, May 18 (Worcester), and Wednesday, May 22 (Blackstone).  Rides will be available at 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., by advanced registration only.  To RSVP, call All Out Adventures at 413-584-2052.  All Out Adventures will spend time talking with each individual to learn about their disability to help select the proper piece of equipment ranging from single and tandem recumbent trikes, to two-wheel tandem and upright and slow style hand cycles.

This month-long event is also presented in partnership with Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (MA DCR) and BHC’s Blackstone River Bikeway Ambassadors volunteer group.  Last spring, the Bikeway Ambassadors attended a day-long training with All Out Adventures and assisted in presenting a day of adaptive cycling along the Blackstone River Bikeway/Greenway in Blackstone last June.  More than 30 people were able to take advantage of the experience, and for many it was their first chance to ride on bicycle.

This year’s series of rides is made by possible by funding from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Universal Access Program. 

To learn more about All Out Adventures and other recreational programs it offers to people with disabilities and their family and friends in state parks and forests throughout Massachusetts, visit
To learn more about the Universal Access program, visit
To learn more about Blackstone Heritage Corridor and its Volunteers-In-Parks program, visit Blackstone Heritage

Complimentary accessible bike rides offer new experience on the Blackstone River Bikeway/Greenway

Blackstone Heritage Corridor Names Kurtz Director and Announces Board Appointments

At its annual meeting in January, Blackstone Heritage Corridor’s Board of Directors named Devon Kurtz its Executive Director. Kurtz has been serving as BHC’s Deputy and Interim Director since April 2018.

Whitinsville, MA (January 24, 2019) – Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (BHC) has named Devon Kurtz its Executive Director and made new appointments to its Board of Directors. At its annual meeting in January held at the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Board voted to advance BHC’s Deputy and Interim Director Devon Kurtz to the position of Executive Director.

Kurtz joined BHC in 2014 to develop the exhibits and interpretive plan for its new visitor center in Worcester, MA, which recently opened in November, 2018. Prior to joining BHC, Kurtz served as the Director of Public Programs for the Higgins Armory Museum and Concord Museum following twelve years as the program coordinator for Old Sturbridge Village. In his new role, Kurtz will be a dedicated steward of BHC’s environmental resources, an interpretive partner with the National Park Service of the region’s history, and a committed advocate for the region’s economic development and progress.

The Board of Directors also elected officers:  Chair, Richard H. Gregory III; Vice Chair, Richard T. Moore; Vice Chair, Dennis Rice; Secretary, Todd Helwig; and Treasurer, Gary E. Furtado. BHC’s Immediate Past Chair is Harry T. Whitin.

Directors re-elected for a 3-year term on BHC’s Board include: Lee Dillard Adams (MA), Jeannie Hebert (MA), Richard T. Moore (MA), Donna Williams (MA), Harry T. Whitin (MA), and Robert Billington (RI).

Other members of the Board include:  Joseph Barbato (MA), Michael D. Cassidy (RI), Allen Fletcher (MA), Richard H. Gregory III (RI), Todd Helwig (MA), Bill Beitler (RI), Pieter de Jong (MA), Gary E. Furtado (RI), Dennis Rice (MA), Robert Dandrade (MA), Thomas Kravitz (RI), and Yvonne Chita (MA).

New Visitor Center Now Open

New Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center in Worcester Opens October 27

Festivities Include Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and Community Celebration

Whitinsville, MA (October 22, 2018) — Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC) announces the opening of the new Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center at Worcester on Saturday, October 27. Festivities begin with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 9:00 a.m., followed by a community celebration from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The Visitor Center is located at 3 Paul Clancy Way, Worcester, MA, and will also serve as the future location of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Central Region Headquarters.
The new Visitor Center will be an interpretive, recreational and cultural resource serving as a gateway to the City of Worcester and the communities located in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. It’s strategically located on Route 146, moments away from the Mass Pike, Routes 20, I-190, I-290 and I-395, and sits adjacent to the historic Blackstone River and Canal and Worcester’s new Blackstone Gateway Park.
“This state-of-the-art facility will be a connecting hub for the newly created Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, important state parks in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and the Blackstone River Bikeway,” explained Devon Kurtz, Acting Executive Director for BHC, and project coordinator for the exhibits at the Center. “The exhibits explore the Valley’s enduring legacy of
innovation and invention; immigration, ethnicity, and cultural traditions; transportation history; and changes to architecture and landscapes.”
“The Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center at Worcester is a signature project for the City of Worcester, the communities of the Blackstone Valley and for all of Central Massachusetts,” said Congressman Jim McGovern. “I am proud to have played a role in securing the federal investments necessary to make this project a reality. In conjunction with the new Blackstone Gateway Park and the recently completed Quinsigamond Bike Spur, the visitor center will spur significant economic development – not only in Quinsigamond Village, but throughout the region.”
The building’s design reinforces themes of industrial history and environmental conservation and reclaimed vital resources from the former brownfield site. The LEED Certified Silver structure features reclaimed brick walls, reclaimed wood flooring, a furnace powered by sustainable wood pellets and solar panels supplying electricity and providing shade. Bioswales, vegetated areas designed to filter stormwater by capturing pollutants, will filter all the water runoff from the building and parking lots, cleaning the water before it is released into the environment.
“The Visitor Center is such an exciting project because it plays a number of important roles for our community,” said City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. “It’s a site that helps tell the story of the Blackstone Canal and its role in the rise of Worcester as a powerhouse of the American Industrial Revolution. Serving as a gateway into the City, it functions as a launch point for both residents and visitors to learn about the many exciting opportunities we offer. Representing a key investment in the Quinsigamond Village neighborhood, this is a project the City and entire region can be proud of.”
According to Kurtz, a powerful visitor experience will be delivered by unprecedented interactive exhibits, reproduction objects, and evocative sculptures within a 4,000-square foot exhibit hall as well as compelling outdoor elements on the 6-acre site. The Visitor Center also features a theater/classroom space which seats 64 people theater-style, with sink, digital projector and AV, and direct access to exterior deck overlooking the river. An adjacent storage room can serve as a caterer’s prep space. The space is available for rent for corporate meetings and private functions.
“Having lived in the Quinsigamond Village neighborhood all of my life, I have seen our neighborhoods transform through effective partnerships and determination,” said Dan Donohue, Massachusetts State Representative. “We still take pride in our industrial heritage and its place in history as one of the anchors of the Industrial Revolution. The district that is my honor to serve encompasses all of the neighborhoods surrounding the new Visitor Center. My constituents not only look forward to begin using the site and its exhibitions for their own exploration, but they clearly see the
economic impact that this Center and its exhibitions will provide in encouraging both our neighbors and tourists to explore and support our region’s businesses.”
“College of the Holy Cross is proud to support the Visitor Center and its mission to educate visitors and residents alike,” said President Fr. Philip L. Boroughs. “For 175 years, Holy Cross has grown along with the Blackstone Valley, and we are thankful for the opportunity to contribute to this showcase of its rich history.”
“The MassDOT Highway Division is pleased to have managed the construction for this signature project in coordination with local, state and federal partners,” said Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver. “The now completed Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center at Worcester provides a multi-use path to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians through the Heritage Corridor adjacent to the building, which includes exhibits as well as observation areas over the water on the new truss style pedestrian bridge crossing the canal.”
“The new Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center is a wonderful space for visitors and the local community to enjoy,” said DCR Commissioner Leo Roy. “The Baker-Polito Administration is thankful to have strong partners like Congressman McGovern, MassDOT, and the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Inc., who are committed to the people of Worcester and introducing visitors to this beautiful region and its rich industrial history.”
The Visitor Center, Blackstone Gateway Park and improvements in the Quinsigamond Village neighborhood total approximately $26 million. This was accomplished with support from the Federal Highway Administration funding and other national, state and regional resources, and brought forward by a coalition of partners including Congressman Jim McGovern, Massachusetts’s 2nd Congressional District; Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor; National Park Service; Senator Michael Moore, 2nd Worcester District; Representative Dan Donahue, 16th Worcester District; Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation; Massachusetts Department of Transportation; City of Worcester; and College of the Holy Cross.
The interpretive exhibits were developed, manufactured and installed by BHC. It received grant support from Stoddard Charitable Trust, Fletcher Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council, George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Foundation, and Fred Harris Daniels Foundation.
Sponsors of the opening day’s festivities include Mirick O’Connell, UniBank, Navigant Credit Union, Harry and Lucy Whitin, Donna and Ted Williams, Richard Gregory, Mass Audubon Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, College of the Holy Cross, Congressman Jim McGovern, Open Sky (formerly Alternatives and The Bridge), Kathleen Polanowicz, William Beitler, Millbury Federal Credit Union and Polar Beverages.

The Visitor Center will be open daily, Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sundays from Noon to 5:00 p.m.
For more information, call (508) 234-4242 or email Learn more about the Visitor Center and Blackstone 
Heritage Corridor at

BHC Announces 2019 Calendar Photo Contest Winners

     Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC) has announced the winners of its 2019 Calendar Photo Contest and plans for a calendar release party at Wormtown Brewery on Friday, October 19. Judging of the photo submissions this year was done by volunteers of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Photography Ambassadors. With the theme for the 2019 calendar being “The Legacy of Transportation in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor: Yesterday and Today,” the nine judges reviewed the photos which best met the required theme and were tasked with making the selections for the twelve months, plus the cover photo. All judging was done blind, without knowledge of the photo’s owner, and critiquing included composition, clarity and relevance to the theme and location.
     This year’s cover photo titled “Same Canal, Different Boats” was taken by Suzie B. of Harrisville, RI, at Blackstone River & Canal Heritage State Park, Uxbridge, MA, while volunteers from the Blackstone Valley Paddle Club were coming ashore. The photo captures active transportation with the kayakers in the historic Blackstone Canal and its location in the National Heritage Corridor is identified with a Blackstone Canal sign on a tree.
     John Kloczkowski of North Uxbridge, MA, captured a Providence & Worcester Railroad train plowing the tracks in Uxbridge, MA, making for the perfect January photo in the 2019 calendar. Judith Belben of Milford, MA, spent time underneath the illuminated Kenneth Burns Bridge in Worcester, MA, and the judges felt the soft pink undertones were a great fit for the month of February. With snow starting to disappear from the landscape, Mark J. Paine of Woonsocket, RI, took his camera down along the Providence & Worcester Railroad train tracks in Woonsocket and captured a stunning shot of the rails. The judges slotted his shot for March. With the leaves still barely on the trees in April, judges selected Bob Evans’ photo of a rustic, antique fire engine, Engine #8, sitting in a field in his hometown of Northbridge, MA.
     Judith Belben had a second image selected for the 2019 calendar and it was her photo of two older men in a small, antique-looking fishing boat taken in Hopedale, MA, that caught their eye. With their backs to the camera’s lens, she captured the serenity of the moment on a sunny spring day. It leaves the admirer wondering what they could have been talking about. Belben’s fishing boat photo is slotted for the month of May.
Mary M. Silva of Northbridge, MA, captured a small bridge on Mendon Street in Uxbridge, MA, adorned with wooden yellow flowers. “The Flower Bridge” was selected for the month of June.
Diane M. Sears of Hopedale, MA, says she was walking with a friend when they happened to walk upon an old fashioned wagon and was encouraged to enter the shot into the photo contest. Her photo was slotted for the month of July as the wagon is adorned with an American Flag perched over the back of its seat.
     On a beautiful, sunny summer day, Dennis M. Smith of Uxbridge, MA, was standing below the Route 116 bridge in Lincoln, RI, on the bank of the Blackstone River just north of the Captain Wilbur Kelly House Museum. It was there he captured his “Arches Over the Blackstone” photo highlighting the stunning architecture of the bridge. The bone-colored bridge stands majestically against a crisp blue sky accented with puffy white clouds, green foliage on the trees and a dark blue river running below. Smith’s photo appears in the month of August. September’s photo was taken by Carole Carnovale of Mendon, MA, and she chose to submit a unique perspective of the popular Triad Bridge in Millville, MA. Titled “Rails Over the Blackstone,” Carnovale’s photo highlights the rich rust color of the bridge as the rails cross over the Blackstone River. The little bit of fog gives it a slight element of mystique.
     While taking a walk on a fall day in the area of the Shining Rock Golf Course in Northbridge, MA, a winding, paved cart path caught Mary M. Silva’s eye and it caught the eye of the photo contest judges too. They selected it for the October photo in the Blackstone Heritage Corridor’s 2019 calendar.
     Steve Lariviere of Northbridge, MA, captured the Blackstone Valley Excursion Train making a trip through Northbridge, MA, one year. The judges found the train’s red and black colors striking against the fog it was traveling through and selected it for the month of November.
      Mary M. Silva had a total of three of her photos selected this year, much to her surprise in this blind judging. In the evening hours, she captured an ornate snow-covered footbridge at Elm Park in Worcester, MA, crossing over Lincoln Pond below. Known as the “Iron Bridge,” it is adorned with heart-shaped ironwork and decorative supports. The bridge is a recreation of the 1881 original by Henry Edwards and its replica was installed in the historic Elm Park in 1972.
     The 2019 Blackstone Heritage Corridor calendar also features blueprints for a paper model of The Lady Carrington Canal Boat printed on the back page. The same blueprints can be found on Blackstone Heritage Corridor’s website in the GearHeads section.
A Calendar Release Party will be held Friday, October 19 at Wormtown Brewery (72 Shrewsbury St., Worcester, MA) from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. To tie into the transportation theme, Wormtown Brewery will donate $1 from each pint of Rocket Pale Ale purchased in the taproom that day. Wormtown’s Rocket pays tribute to Dr. Robert Goddard, the genius who invented the liquid-fueled rocket, not far from the brewery. October 19 is noted as “Robert Goddard Anniversary Day,” the day celebrated as his inspiration for rockets. According to historical records, on this day, when he was just 17 years old, Robert Goddard was up in a cherry tree pruning branches when he imagined making a device having the possibility of ascending to Mars and how it would look on a small scale. It’s said he knew then what he wanted to do with his life. On March 16, 1926 he successfully launched the first liquid-fueled rocket from a field belonging to his aunt in Auburn, MA. He named it Nell and it flew 41 feet high and landed 184 feet way in just 2.5 seconds.
     Blackstone Heritage Corridor’s 2019 calendar will be available for sale late October at its office located at 670 Linwood Avenue, Whitinsville, MA, and on its website at For more information, call (508)234-4242.



  Contact:  Bonnie Combs, Marketing Director
                   (508) 234-4242

 BHC Announces 2019 Calendar Photo Contest Winners
Calendar Release Party to Be Held at Wormtown Brewery on October 19

After Six Successful Years at BHC, DiPrete Accepts Position at RI DEM

Whitinsville, MA (April 3, 2018) – Following six successful years at Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC), Megan DiPrete has accepted the position of Chief, Division of Planning and Development at Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM).

DiPrete was the first full-time staff person at BHC, starting her tenure in May of 2012. She was instrumental in transitioning BHC from a Federal Commission to the thriving non-profit organization that it is today, working to help develop the organization’s first-ever 10 year strategic plan, refreshing the branding and logos, and creating a new web site.  For the past year, she has served as BHC’s Executive Director, focusing her efforts on establishing a plan for the long-term sustainability of the organization.

Drawing on her experience in both community planning and construction management, DiPrete brought a number of projects to BHC’s portfolio that protect the natural and historical resources of the Blackstone River Valley, cultivate a generation of stewardship and enhance the community vitality of the 25 cities and towns in the National Heritage Corridor. DiPrete’s work with BHC has always kept an eye toward how community visions and project opportunities might fit together. For example, when she became aware of state funding available to purchase bike racks in Massachusetts, DiPrete reached out to the eligible communities and helped complete the grant planning and reporting. Ultimately, bike racks, fix-it stations and other cycling infrastructure worth more than $20,000 was installed in 8 communities. 

In Rhode Island, the Blackstone River Watershed Council / Friends of the Blackstone was hoping to partner with a state agency and the National Park Service to construct a replica barn at the Kelly House and Transportation Museum in the Blackstone River State Park.  Learning that the partners had the will, DiPrete and BHC stepped in with “the way” and facilitated the construction process and project management.

From the very beginning, DiPrete’s work with the not-for-profit organization has included shepherding the development of the Blackstone River Bikeway, a 48-mile long on-road and off-road bike system.  When DiPrete joined BHC in 2012, the project was about 35% complete. Entering 2018, the Bikeway is nearly 60% complete, and other sections are in construction and design. DiPrete was also responsible for guiding BHC in the move to Whitinsville. In 2015, Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor operations had been based at the historic Woonsocket, RI Depot building for more than 20 years.  When notified that landlord/owner RI DOT had other plans for the space, DiPrete took the lead by identifying the Linwood Mill office space. Not only is the site nearly in the geographic center of the National Heritage Corridor, but the building itself is a reclaimed mill deeply connected to the nationally-significant stories of the Blackstone River Valley. Redevelopment of the site in recent years preserved the integrity of the structure and included environmentally-sensitive techniques.

“It is difficult to leave,” DiPrete said recently.  “Having been part of the transition to a strong non-profit organization, part of the resurgence of volunteer stewardship throughout the region, working with an amazing team of people and shepherding projects that will have a lasting impact, I am so pleased not only with what we have shown we can do, but am also excited for the possibilities of the future.”

Deputy Director Devon Kurtz has been named Acting Executive Director while BHC’s Board of Directors prepares for an Executive search.

Join us as we bid farewell to Megan on Tuesday, April 10 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in BHC’s office, 670 Linwood Ave., Whitinsville, MA. Drop in to share congratulations and best wishes. Light refreshments will be served.


About Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc.:

An energetic nonprofit, the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. partners with organizations, local communities, businesses and residents to ensure the long term vitality of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.  Learn more at


BHC Announces 2018 “Birding the Blackstone” Program

Volunteers to lead specialized workshops, bird walks and more
throughout the National Heritage Corridor

 Whitinsville, MA (February 26, 2018) – Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC) announces the return of its volunteer-led spring birding program which this year will include some new additions to take the program to exciting new heights.

            Two “Birding by Ear” workshops will be led by Beth and Paul Milke, highly experienced interpretive volunteers with the Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) program which is operated by BHC in coordination with the National Park Service.  “Experienced birdwatchers often hear and can identify birds before seeing them by listening to their songs and calls,” Beth Milke explained.  The workshop will teach participants what makes these calls unique and offer tips on developing their skills.  The “Birding by Ear” workshops will be at BHC’s office in Whitinsville, MA, on March 13 and April 10.

            The 2018 “Birding the Blackstone” program also includes the return of the “Sky Dance of the Woodcock” event at River Bend Farm visitor center in MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (MA DCR)’s Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park, in Uxbridge, MA, on Saturday, March 24.  “The field at River Bend Farm is prime habitat for the American Woodcock, a shorebird with large eyes and a long bill,” Milke explained.  “At dusk, participants will listen for the male Woodcocks’ unusual call, and track the flight by the sound of their wings.”

            There will also be four weekend bird walks in April and May at locations including US Army Corps of Engineers’ West Hill Park in Uxbridge, MA; MA DCR’s River Bend Farm in Uxbridge, MA; RI Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM) Blackstone River State Park in Lincoln, RI; and RI DEM’s Lincoln Woods State Park, also in Lincoln, RI.

            And new this year, BHC is offering a “Birding by Boat” event on June 9.  By partnering with Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone (BRWC/FOB) and departing from BRWC/FOB’s Environmental Education Center in Lincoln, RI, there will be a terrific opportunity to enjoy a brief workshop on identifying birds followed by a paddle on the Blackstone River where those skills will be immediately put to use.

            For complete event details, visit or call the office at (508) 234-4242.  Program brochures are also available.

The Birding the Blackstone program is presented by Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC) in partnership with Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (MA DCR), Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM), and Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone.



About Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc.:

An energetic nonprofit, the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. partners with organizations, local communities, businesses and residents to ensure the long term vitality of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. Learn more at

New Skills Workshops Enhance the Volunteer Experience in National Heritage Corridor

Whitinsville, MA (February 5, 2018) – A series of workshops designed to enhance the volunteer experience with Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC), and the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park (BRVNHP) is bolstering the Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) program which the two entities co-manage.  The VIP Skills Workshop Series launched last fall, and already nearly a dozen workshops have provided unique education and skills training for nearly 200 volunteers, with some of the workshops being made available to the general public.

               “Our volunteer program continues to grow and is attracting a wide-range of different interests,” explains Megan DiPrete, Executive Director at BHC.  “By offering these Skills Workshops, we’re able to give volunteers education and training which will enhance their skill sets and their ability to share their knowledge and passion with others when they lead program activities throughout the year.”

               The workshop series launched in October with an Enviroscape™ training, which is a table-top model designed to educate people of all ages about how pollutants affect a watershed.  The Enviroscape™ can be used in school settings, libraries, community events, and more.  VIPs who attended the workshop are now eligible to sign out the Enviroscape™ model and take it to events to continue to foster stewardship for the environment.  America Recycles Day on November 15 was celebrated with a public-offered Skills Workshop at Casella Waste Systems in Auburn, MA.  People from all over the National Heritage Corridor were provided a behind-the-scenes experience and now have additional tools to teach others to be better recyclers.

              In December, VIPs received a behind-the-scenes tour at the Ladd Observatory in Providence, RI, to learn how to read the night sky and learn the history of the telescopes housed at the centuries-old observatory managed by Brown University.  Also in December, BHC offered a free sewing workshop, giving instruction on how to make a repurposed tote bag made from plastic seed and feed bags.  The latter skills workshop was open to the public and was held at the new Blackstone Valley Education Hub at the Linwood Mill in Whitinsville, MA.

               In January, BRVNHP Ranger Joshua Boles offered an open-to-the-public oral history skills workshop at the Little Red Shop Museum in Hopedale, MA, so participants could learn new skills on how to best interview people to capture important history.

               CPR and First Aid training was offered to volunteers of BHC’s Bikeway and Trail Ambassadors, as well as the Blackstone Valley Paddle Club in February, followed by open-to-the-public training on Maple Sugaring at Blackstone River & Canal Heritage State Park in Uxbridge, MA.  These volunteers will put their skills training to immediate use by providing assistance to MA DCR staff at the upcoming Maple Sugar Days event at the Park March 3 and 4.

               In March, a Visitor Services Skills Workshop is being provided by BRVNHP Ranger Joshua Boles, and later in the month VIPs will have an opportunity to learn about Cemetery Conservation Skills.  This training opportunity is being offered by VIPs Betty and Carlo Mencucci at the Burrillville Historical and Preservation Society.  The Mencucci’s are professional gravestone conservators and members of the Association of Gravestone Studies and the Burrillville Historical Society.  The workshop will be open-to-the-public and will provide training on the proper method of conserving gravestones.  Participants will learn about various stone types as well as different techniques and materials used in the conservation process.  The training precedes Cemetery Awareness/Preservation Day in Rhode Island on April 14th and the Mencucci’s and other historical groups will be hosting volunteer cemetery restoration events at which these skills and knowledge can be put to use.

               Additional upcoming skills training opportunities include a workshop on accessible cycling.  Training will include information on disability etiquette, the types of cycles that are available, adjusting the cycles to individual participants, and learning to ride the variety of adaptive cycles.  BHC partnered with All Out Adventures (AOA) in October, 2017, to present an assisted bicycle ride for VIP Margaret Carroll of Millville, MA, and this skills workshop will prepare the Bikeway Ambassadors for future events in the National Heritage Corridor.

               To learn more about the Skills Workshop Series and the Volunteers-In-Parks program, contact Suzanne Buchanan at or call (508) 234-4242.  In addition, a Volunteer Open House is scheduled for Tuesday, March 6 at BHC’s office at 670 Linwood Ave., Whitinsville, MA.

Blackstone Heritage Corridor Announces Board Appointments

  Press Release                                                         


  Contact:  Megan DiPrete, Executive Director

Blackstone Heritage Corridor Announces Board Appointments

 Whitinsville, MA (January 12, 2018) – Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC) announces appointments made to its Board of Directors.  At its annual meeting in January, held at Millbury Federal Credit Union, an election of officers and directors was held.  Directors re-elected for a 3- Year Term include:  Joseph Barbato (MA), Robert Billington (RI), Michael D. Cassidy (RI), Allen Fletcher (MA) and Todd Helwig (MA).

Other members of the Board include:  Lee Dillard Adams (MA), Bill Beitler (RI), Anne Conway (RI), Pieter de Jong (MA), Gary Furtado (RI), John Gregory (RI), Jeannie Hebert (MA), Richard Moore (MA), Dennis Rice (MA), Harry Whitin (MA) and Donna Williams (RI).

The Board of Directors also elected officers:  Chair, Harry T. Whitin; Vice Chair, Richard H. Gregory; Secretary, Todd Helwig; and Treasurer, Gary Furtado.


About Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc.:

An energetic nonprofit, the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. partners with organizations, local communities, businesses and residents to ensure the long term vitality of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. Learn more at