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Raking out trash and debris, volunteers clean up Gano Park

Gano Park was seasonably gray beneath Saturday morning's steady drizzle. But by noon, volunteers had cleared piles of trash, wet logs and debris from the banks of the Seekonk River. As the chainsaws slowed, community members spoke of a renewed life for the park — of boat ramps and bike paths — an anchor for future neighborhood activity.

The Fox Point Neighborhood Association geared up for Earth Day last Saturday by cleaning up litter and invasive vegetation at Gano Park, an endeavor that sets the stage for a proposed boat ramp for the Seekonk River at East Transit Street.

Neighborhood volunteers and city workers from the Providence Parks Department and Forestry Division spent three hours Saturday morning cleaning out the area around the park near the Seekonk River, where litter was strewn among the trees. Volunteers also worked to clean out the Japanese knotweed plant that had invaded and was killing the trees, said Robert McMahon '68, superintendent of the Providence Parks Department.

"There's probably 10 years' worth of litter here," he said.

The cleanup was funded by a $500 Earth Day grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, according to a press release issued by the neighborhood association.

The clearing of debris and the invasive plants also coincides with a proposal to build a new boat ramp off East Transit Street, said John Rousseau, the association's executive secretary and organizer of the cleanup. Plans for the boat ramp stalled three years ago after the discovery of a landfill near the site, but contaminated soil has since been removed, said Seth Yurdin, councilman for Ward 1 and coordinator for the event.

Construction is expected to begin in September and finish in next May, according to the press release.

The beach used to be a popular hangout and swim spot, Rousseau said, but has been marred over the years by trash. With the area cleared and clean, it could become appealing once again, he said. There has been discussion among neighborhood residents of constructing bike paths through the park, Yurdin said.

Brown's crew teams race down the Seekonk River, and clearing the area might bring in more spectators, Rousseau said.

"We're hoping to develop the area so people can watch the races," he said.

Yurdin said the cleanup both spread the word about environmental awareness and made community members feel like they had "ownership" of the park, allowing them to feel more participatory in the community.

Some of the mulch that the volunteers and city workers collected from clearing out the woods was used for the park's community garden.

"It'll be really nice, I think, to see the waterfront again," said volunteer Keri Marion. "It's such a great park."

She said she hoped further cleanup would take place on the other side of the river in the future.



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