The Value of Forests

Everyone loves trees!  The serene greenness of a forest is soothing.  It’s beautiful.  It is something to be enjoyed, photographed and hiked through.

What does an acre of forested land really do for us?  Quite a lot, it turns out.  Each acre provides environmental services that, if had to be paid for otherwise, would cost taxpayers a lot of money.  One acre of forest can store 36.8 megatons of carbon.  It can also filter 2.6 megatons of carbon dioxide (the result of burning fossil fuels) out of the atmosphere.  Were that not a major contribution to a healthy environment, that same acre can also annually produce enough oxygen for 19 people to breath.

And forests are also critical to water quality, water quantity, flood mitigation, wildlife habitats and the removal of air pollution.

Each acre of forest provides $2,923 of recreational benefits for humans.  Access to those recreational benefits reduces health costs by $4,028 per acre.

How many acres of forest land is in your community?  In the National Heritage Corridor?

2017 Calendar Photo Contest Winners Announced

Blackstone Heritage Corridor Hosts Calendar Release Party

Event Celebrates Local Photographers Capturing the Beauty of the Region

Whitinsville, MA – (August 23, 2016) – In celebration of its new 2017 Blackstone Heritage Corridor Calendar featuring the work of 10 local photographers, Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC) is hosting a Calendar Release Party on Wednesday, October 19 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at its offices at Linwood Mill, 670 Linwood Avenue, Whitinsville, MA. Guests can meet the photographers and purchase calendars on site.

“The emphasis of our 2017 Calendar is on our industrial heritage,” notes Charlene Perkins Cutler, executive director of BHC. The Calendar is “2017: The Innovative and Industrious Blackstone Heritage Corridor.” Carefully curated facts about the region’s contribution to the American Industrial Revolution punctuate the pages. On each month’s page, there are facts celebrating the innovation that had been fostered in the National Heritage Corridor from hundreds of years ago to the present. For instance, in the 1830s, the Knowlton Hat Factory in Upton, MA, was the largest manufacturer of straw hats in the world.

“The Blackstone Heritage Corridor is one of the Nation’s richest and best preserved repositories of landscapes, structures and sites that recall a neglected era of the American past: the Age of Industry,” Cutler points out. “Thousands of structures and whole landscapes still exist which represent the entire history of the American Industrial Revolution and the complex economic and social relationships of the people who lived and worked here.”

The photos for the 2017 Blackstone Heritage Corridor Calendar where chosen in a blind contest and offer a mix of scenes showcasing the National Heritage Corridor’s natural, historical and cultural resources.

The new year begins with a beautiful snowy scene, taken late in the afternoon with the sky lit by stunning pink tones cast against what looks like a carefully hand-painted landscape. January’s photo was submitted by Frances Guevremont of Lincoln, RI, who revealed that the scene lasted only about 10 minutes as she photographing it. February follows with another snow-filled landscape taken along the canal tow path below the Ashton Dam in Quinville, RI. David Newton of Cumberland, RI, shared his photo that beckons one to cross the wooden bridge with snowshoes or cross country skis. Carol Dandrade of Uxbridge, MA, spent some time along the rail trail in Millbury, MA, and captured a reflection of a metal bridge that was cast onto the track. The picture offers a unique perspective that one might never see.

Cormier Woods, a property in Uxbridge, MA, preserved by Trustees of Reservations inspired Wendy A. Henschel of Linwood, MA, to pack a camera. She captured an historic homestead along the trail with beautiful stone work and complementary colors in the roof and wood siding. It sits in surrounded by lush landscape just calling out for spring. The month of May is ushered into the 2017 Blackstone Heritage Corridor Calendar with a captivating photo of two cygnets whose sudden movement cast a spiral around them, offering the light an opportunity to dance around the new creatures. Tiny beads of water on the swans make one think the calendar is wet. Ernest Berube of Lincoln, RI, captured May’s photo along the banks of the Blackstone River in Lincoln, RI. Further north in his hometown of Douglas, MA, Scott Harwood stopped along the Southern New England Trunkline Trail on Wallum Lake Road and zeroed in on aging stone arch bridge that beckons the admirer to continue on down the lush green path.

An iconic symbol of freedom, the American Bald Eagle, graces the page in July, submitted by Don McKenzie of Worcester, MA. Titled “Papa Bald Eagle Fishing in the Blackstone River,” the powerful image was taken in Riverdale, a village of Northbridge, MA. It is no secret that the Blackstone River offers photographers a wide variety of subjects. For the month of August, a photo submitted by Allan Siuzdak of Cumberland, RI, of a trio of painted turtles walking up a fallen log also captured their reflection being cast in the water below. With the sun shining off their backs, one can almost feel the August heat pulsing off the page. The golden hues of September inspired Wendy A. Henschel to submit a photo taken at River Bend Farm at Blackstone River & Canal Heritage State Park in Uxbridge, MA. Henschel captured a Fritillary butterfly resting with its wings wide open, appearing to be having a conversation with a nearby pencil dragonfly. River Bend Farm was also the scene for October’s picture taken by Robert William Mielke of Uxbridge, MA. Miekle spotted a picnicking couple enjoying the view of a stone arch bridge embellished with autumn color. Carol Dandrade visited the Hannaway Blacksmith Shop in Lincoln, RI, and submitted a vignette of blacksmith tools with a roaring fire in the background, appropriate to offer some warmth to November’s calendar picture with a nod to history. The month of December is celebrated with a picturesque winter scene of the Blackstone Canal at the Capt. Wilbur Kelly House Museum in Quinville, RI. David Newton captured the shot after a snow squall had moved on and the sun started to break through the clouds casting a reflection on the water below.

The coveted cover shot, “Pond Mist Sunrise,” was submitted by Leon Droby of Uxbridge, MA, at Voss Farm (River Bend Farm), also in Uxbridge. Standing near the shore looking at the tow path in the distance, Droby captured the daybreak with the sun’s citrus-colored hues reflecting into the canal through a layer of fog dancing above it. The barren trees are reflected in the canal creating a captivating photo at a very popular visitor location in the National Heritage Corridor.

“I look forward to this calendar contest every year because I get to see hundreds of photos that capture the uniqueness of the National Heritage Corridor,” Cutler explained. “They are all submitted by local photographers, and it’s always inspiring to see what they discover and choose to submit to help us tell our story through the months of the year. We are grateful for the passion and generosity.”
BHC’s 2017 Calendar will be available at the Calendar Release Party on October 17 and can be purchased for $10 each. The calendars will also be available for sale on BHC’s online shop. To learn more, visit

BHC Releases Strategic Plan for Public Comment

Press Release
Contact: Charlene Perkins Cutler, Executive Director

       Blackstone Heritage Corridor Releases Strategic Plan for Public Comment

Whitinsville, MA (August 1, 2016) – Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC) has developed a ten-year strategic plan and is inviting the public to review and comment on it. “A great deal of thought and discussion went into what ultimately became a very succinct list of strategies for our nonprofit organization through 2026,” Cutler explained. “It was intense work over a short period of time, but professional and effective because of the expertise of the members of the subcommittees.”

To develop the Strategic Plan, subcommittees of the BHC Board of Directors were formed to lead the work in specific areas of the BHC mission: Environment, Historical & Cultural Resources, and Economic Development & Community Revitalization. Nearly 50 people participated on those subcommittees, representing Board of Director members, partners, residents, businesses, corporations, municipalities, nonprofits, state agencies and federal agencies. Participants applied their extensive knowledge base to contemplate challenges and opportunities that BHC and the National Heritage Corridor are likely to face during the 10-year period of the plan. Each subcommittee gave birth to an overall vision for the resource category and developed a list of strategies that would achieve their vision. Those visions and strategies were then compiled into this strategic plan.

“Within the Strategic Plan document are highlighted mission-area strategies that BHC will use to develop future work plans, budgets, and funding requests,” Cutler pointed out. “BHC’s ultimate goal is to become a self-sufficient nonprofit, to be valued and sustained by the people of the Blackstone Valley, and to continue the leadership of the former Commission, providing a variety of opportunities for residents and visitors alike to preserve and promote the environmental, historical, cultural and recreational resources of the Valley for current and future generations.”
Cutler notes that when Congress established the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor in 1986, a federal commission was created to operate the National Heritage Corridor. With the termination of the federal Commission in 2014, the authority and responsibility of managing the National Heritage Corridor was transferred to BHC. “The Strategic Plan,” she explains, “builds on the previous thoughtful and comprehensive planning work done previously by the Commission and provides great foundation for our next ten years.”

To review the strategic plan, visit BHC’s website ( Click on “About Us” and select “Strategic Plan.” Comments should be directed to BHC’s Executive Director, Charlene Perkins Cutler, by email at and should be sent by September 1, 2016.

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

And the Ants Go Marching…

What’s between 65 and 145 million years old?  Ants!  They live everywhere in the world except Antarctica and several very remote islands.  They live in a colony, a huge organism where the ants work in a uniform way for the collective good.  Each ant has a task.  The Queen lays a bazillion eggs.  The wingless females (workers) take care of the young, clean the nest and protect the community.  The males have one task – to mate with the queen and then die.  Ants have inspired writers like Mark Twain and poets like Robert Frost.  They have been featured in big animated classics like Antz and A Bug’s Life.

With over 10,000 species of ants identified, you can be sure that some of them make their home in the Blackstone Heritage Corridor and will be looking to enjoy your summer picnics!

Alex & Ani – Day of Service at Kelly House Museum

A magical day of “Making a Difference” volunteering at the Capt. Wilbur Kelly House Museum gardens. Thank you Team (+) Impact ALEX AND ANI for offering to make a difference. Teamwork at its best!!

If you or your organization is interested in a Day of Service in the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, contact Volunteer Coordinator, Suzanne Buchanan at


WPRI 12 – New Program Promotes Clean Fishing in RI

New program promotes clean fishing in RI

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — This weekend is the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s free freshwater fishing weekend – and a local woman recently set up a recycling program to make cleaning up at your fishing spot a little easier.

Ocean State Tackle owner David Henault said he is passionate about clean fishing, and so is Bonnie Combs.

Combs, from the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, said she is especially bothered by the microfilament fishing line she sees left in the water and tangled on branches.

“Wildlife gets caught in it, animals eat it, it takes over 600 years to break down,” said Combs.

Now, thanks to Combs, local fishermen can stuff leftover lines in repurposed tennis ball cans. She reeled in the idea by learning about a program in Florida called “Stow It, Don’t Throw It.”

“The idea is to temporarily stow your line, if there is not recycling where you are, stow your line, bring it to a place that does have recycling or mail it back to Berkley yourself,” Combs said.

Berkley is a fishing line manufacturer with a knack for recycling.

“The coolest thing is that they recycle it to make fish habitats, there are like little cubes, and you drop it in the water, and it promotes plant growth, and the it encourages healthy fish populations,” Combs said.

Ocean State Tackle is one of several stores where you can drop off your fishing recyclables. You might also be able to recycle right at your fishing location – because pipe-shaped containers for recycling are placed at various lakes and points in the Blackstone Corridor.

Blackstone Heritage Corridor Supports Visitor Centers

Woonsocket, RI (April 21, 2016) – Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC) has continued its 30-year commitment to tourism in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor by awarding $20,000 grants awarded to both the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center in Pawtucket, RI, and the Rhode Island Historical Society which operates a visitor center at the Museum of Work & Culture in Woonsocket, RI.
Strategically positioned across the street from the Slater Mill Historic Site, the Pawtucket visitor center serves more than 65,000 annually who come to the city to learn about the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. It features a hands-on relief map of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, two art galleries and a state-of-the-art theater which shows “Hidden in the Blackstone,” an award-winning film depicting the rise and evolution of American industrialization. The Center also runs a gift shop featuring food and gift items from a variety of local artists.

“The support from Blackstone Heritage Corridor is critical,” explained Barney S. Heath, Director, Department of Planning & Redevelopment for the City of Pawtucket. “It allows the Visitor Center to function seven days a week and service visitors who have come to learn about the Blackstone Valley. With the advent of the new National Park, a buzz is in the air and being able to sustain the Visitor Center has never been more important.”

Visitors to the National Heritage Corridor also benefit from the rich learning experience at the Museum of Work & Culture in Woonsocket, RI. The Museum shares the stories of the men, women, and children who came to find a better life in Rhode Island’s mill towns in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The two-story museum, conveniently located on Main Street and adjacent to the Blackstone River, features replicas of a Quebec farm house, a mill floor with looms, a triple decker mill house and a 1929 classroom.
“The Blackstone Heritage Corridor partnership program grant made it possible for the Museum of Work & Culture to complete the conceptual design phase for a new permanent, interactive, digital exhibit called The Mills of Woonsocket,” explained Anne Conway, director of the Museum of Work & Culture. “The funds allowed us to engage the expertise of an exhibit design firm who worked with the Museum to develop the exhibit’s approach and produced interface layouts, exhibit sketches, and a sample animation and promotion video.”

“We are pleased to continue investing resources into these important tourist destinations,” explained Charlene Perkins Cutler, executive director of BHC. “Pawtucket and Woonsocket are two important stops along the 48-mile Blackstone River where visitors learn about the rich history of the National Heritage Corridor. The sites in Pawtucket and Woonsocket take on added significance as they host new visitors drawn by the new Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.”

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

Birding on the Blackstone

WOONSOCKET (April 11, 2016) – With the arrival of spring in the National Heritage Corridor comes a multitude of migrating birds, and to celebrate, Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC) is presenting a new program for bird enthusiasts, “Birding on the Blackstone.”

Beginning Sunday, April 24, Rosanne Sherry, a member of BHC’s Volunteers-in-Parks Program, will lead casual walks throughout the Blackstone River on the Blackstone River Bikeway to search for returning migrant birds. Rosanne will lead hour-long walks on Sunday and Thursday mornings at 8:00 a.m. as follows: April 24 and 28, May 19, 22, 26 and 29, and June 2 and 5. The walks will depart from the Captain Wilbur Kelly House in Lincoln, RI.

BHC’s Volunteer Coordinator, Suzanne Buchanan, is especially pleased with this new program. “Roseanne recently reached out to us about our Volunteers-in-Parks Program and had some great experiences to share,” she explained. “It turns out, Roseanne is a lifelong birdwatcher and naturalist and her horticultural career has spanned three decades in Rhode Island. Over that time, she has worked in garden centers, written for local newspapers and magazines and appeared on radio and television as a horticultural educator. She is also the former Cooperative Extension Rhode Island State Master Gardener Coordinator. She is a long time member of RI Audubon and founding member of the Ocean State Bird Club.”

“Some birds we are likely to see include the Eastern Phoebe, Red Wing Blackbird, Downy Woodpecker, Red Bellied Woodpecker, Chipping Sparrow and Song Sparrow,” Roseanne shared. “The Eastern Phoebes like to nest under the footbridge.”

The first event on April 24 will also mark the end of National Parks Week, so it is appropriately taking place in one of the nodes of the new Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.

“The event is also a great opportunity for photographers,” notes Charlene Perkins Cutler, BHC’s Executive Director. “Over the years, we have received many submissions of stunning bird photos taken in the National Heritage Corridor for our calendar photo contest. Now they can also be submitted for our Photo of the Week contest on our website.” Cutler also noted that she has used bird photos submitted by Merrilyn Parry of Providence for several of BHC’s marketing materials including BHC’s 2015 annual report. “We regularly search through those precious photo submissions given to us by local photographers. For the ‘Birding on the Blackstone’ event flyer, we featured a picture from Allan J. Siuzdak of Cumberland.”

To register for one of the Birding on the Blackstone walks, send an email to or call 401-765-2211. A complimentary Blackstone Valley Adventure Pack will be given to those who register. Participants must be 14 years of age or older and are encouraged to bring binoculars and field guides. The walk will be cancelled if it is raining at the time of the walk. To learn about the Volunteers-in-Program and other BHC events, visit

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

The Earth Workers

Given my recent blog about robins and their relationship with worms, it seems appropriate for me to give equal time to the worms.  I’ve been reading a very interesting book, The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart.  This particular book is about earthworms.  It has received rave reviews by The New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post and others.  I understand why.  I started reading it and couldn’t put it down.  Who knew that text about the finer details of those wiggly worms would be so interesting!

As Stewart puts it, the book is about “the remarkable achievements of earthworms.”  According to Charles Darwin, “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.” Earthworms are among our most plentiful life forms.

Common earthworms are the largest members of the class Oligochaeta in the phylum Annelida.  They are a grayish-red in color.  Worms react to stress just like any other organism.  While they are not slimy, they will secrete moisture (worm mucus) when touched or when their environment is disturbed.  Only a few inches long, they will thrive under optimal conditions and subsequent generations will be longer and bigger around.

Let’s take a trip back to high school biology, a course I particularly loved.  While it was 45 years ago, my memory has (remarkably) pulled out some of what I learned.  The earthworm is a tube made up of a series of segmented rings (called annuli).  It is an invertebrate, without a skeleton, but its shape is created by chambers filled with fluid.  The segments are covered in bristles called setae that help the worm to burrow and move.  (I remember diagramming this as clear as if it were yesterday!) The digestive system runs straight through the tube. The worm breathes through its skin and has a rudimentary circulatory system and a primitive brain.

The first segment of the earthworm contains its mouth.  In the act of burrowing, the mouth ingests soils so the earthworm can take in nutrients from the decomposed organic matter in the soil.  Actually, the nutrients come from the bacteria and fungi that grow in the decomposing matter.  Worms can eat up to one-third of their mass in soil each day.  Night crawlers are labeled as such because they are earthworms that feed and mate on the surface at night and burrow in to the soil during the day.

Earthworms are hermaphrodites with both male and female parts.  However, they need another worm to reproduce.  After mating, an earthworm will produce a little cocoon that is shaped like a small lemon – obviously a very small lemon – and colored dirty yellow to brown.  The cocoon is produced from a liquid secreted from a sac located in the front third of the worm.  Both sperm and egg cells are in the cocoon when it is formed and buried.  It takes two to four weeks for the new worms to come forth.

But here’s the cool thing about earthworms:  they are essential to healthy soil.  Worms can burrow as deep as six and a half feet.  With that activity, they are shredding and mixing nutrients and decomposed organics, aerating the soil, and keeping its texture loose so water can easily permeate and be retained and plants can take root.  Earthworms create casts (feces) as they digest soil and its associated microbes.  They generate tons of casts per acre each year, drastically affecting soil structure by adding many more microbes than they consume.  More microbes facilitate the conversion of nutrients from decomposing organic matter into forms that plants can absorb.  Brilliant!

The presence of earthworms indicates healthy soil.  They turn the soil and mix nutrients from the top soil into the lower levels.  According to the NRCS (USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service) website, “they can turn over the top six inches of soil in ten to twenty years.”  Amy Stewart calls earthworms “nature’s plough.”  It is estimated that in one square yard of fertile, organic soil, as many as 500 worms may be living. Anyone want to calculate the number of square yards per square mile times 556 square miles to estimate the number of earthworms in the National Heritage Corridor?

Earthworms are food for other animals like rats, birds and toads.  They are used as bait in both commercial and recreational fishing.  And they are the star of the home/business worm composting systems, where earthworms consume decomposing food scraps and create soil with their castings.

Darwin also said that “Archaeologists are probably not aware how much they owe to worms for the preservation of many ancient objects.  Coins, gold ornaments, stone implements, etc. if dropped on the surface of the ground, will infallibly be buried by the castings of worms in a few years, and will thus be safely preserved, until the land at some future time is turned up.”

Who knew?