The BRWC/FOB as it is now, came into being through the merger of two pre-existing organizations: the Friends of the Blackstone and the Blackstone River Watershed Council.
History of Friends of the Blackstone (FOB)
The Friends of the Blackstone (FOB) was founded in 1990 and led the way by getting local residents involved in cleanups beginning with the Captain Wilbur Kelly House, now the centerpiece of the Blackstone River State Park. The largest cleanup involved 278 volunteers at multiple sites including the Fanning Wilderness Area in Valley Falls. This site turned into a multi-year project and required our removing 10,000 tires and tons of debris from the Valley Falls marsh. The success of these cleanups revolved around partnerships with local residents, businesses, and governments at both the state and federal levels. The FOB also urged the RI Department of Environmental Management Fish and Wildlife Division to stock the river with trout and to begin a diadromous fish study to bring herring back to the Blackstone River by building a series of fish ladders from Pawtucket to Cumberland.
History of the Blackstone River Watershed Council (BRWC)
The BRWC was founded in 1997 to address an agenda of involvement in watershed planning including working with Department of Environmental Management on the Blackstone River Action Plan, events such as helping to establish the nation’s first Rivers Day, and cleanups (e.g., Earth Day), advocacy and education.
On October 23, 2004, the membership voted to restructure and organize the organization into an autonomous 501(c)(3) corporation. The Blackstone River Watershed Council was incorporated in the State of Rhode Island on March 30, 2005 and given 501(c)(3) status in August of 2006, effective date January 28, 2005.
Friends of the Blackstone and the Blackstone River Watershed Council Merge
In 2006, the Blackstone River Watershed Council began to explore a merger between themselves and the Friends of the Blackstone. The merger was achieved later that same year. The organization’s name became the Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone (BRWC/FOB).
The organization was designated by the State of Rhode Island as the official stewards of the Blackstone River. This designation allows the BRWC/FOB to have standing in watershed-related projects. In 2010, we were awarded a Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to guide us in commenting on all the phases of the remediation process for the Peterson Puritan Superfund Site OU-2. As such, BRWC/FOB disseminates the data from the site and reports it to the local residents in language that is understandable via newsletters, meetings and our website. See PPS intranet project.
As we continue to move forward…
The BRWC/FOB has continued to remove tons of debris from the watershed. To date, we have removed over 25,000 tires from critical areas of the watershed. The in-kind service dollars of volunteer hours are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Currently, one of our main goals is to educate the public about the aquatic life that the river supports. Starting with school programs like “Trout in the Classroom” where local students raise fish in school to be introduced into the river and our “River Rat Program” where students are taught hands-on about river ecology.
Today we have a new home called the “Friends of the Blackstone Environmental Center” along the Blackstone River in Manville. We now have the tools to teach and show the community how important the Blackstone River watershed is to our everyday life and why we need to love and protect it for our own wellbeing and our quality of life.