A NEW PATH: A rendering of ideas to improve the lower Woonasquatucket River (near Bath Street), including restored native vegetation, bankside walkway, “floating island” of aquatic water-cleansing plants and serpentine dock.
More than 20 years after the Fred Lippitt Woonasquatucket River Greenway project in Providence was launched, the river and its surroundings can still look a little unloved.
But progress to restore the waterway, expand the Greenway and turn it into a well-used link between downtown and the West Side is picking up pace again in concert with the city’s recent efforts to become more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.
This fall the state transportation department is completing two construction projects that will expand connections to the existing off-road walking and cycling trail that runs northwest of Olneyville Square.
It’s part of a larger goal of making a dedicated, nearly six-mile bicycle and pedestrian route from downtown to the Johnston line, which along with the city’s ongoing zoning rewrite and a plan to create a bicycle-sharing system, is intended to make it less automobile-reliant.
Supporters hope that the Greenway will also stimulate investment in Olneyville and surrounding West Side neighborhoods, which are still adjusting to the decline of once-defining heavy industry.
“One focus is strengthening the connection between downtown Providence, Eagle Square and Olneyville,” said Lisa Aurecchia, program director of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, which has led the Greenway effort for years. “Clearly if we are creating view corridors and a shared walking path for these mill buildings, where right now people don’t have open space, it will add capital value.”
The Greenway projects come after the city has done a series of beautification projects in Olneyville Square, such as hanging flower baskets, and putting up new streetlights and banners. The Square One committee of local businesses and organizations has also started trying to market the area.
And next spring the Olneyville Housing Corp. hopes to begin work on the $30 million redevelopment of the 120,000-square foot Paragon Mill into commercial space for local small businesses.