To the Editor:
On April 28, over 500 volunteers fanned out through the Woonasquatucket River Watershed and bike path to participate in the annual Clean Day on the Greenway. Anyone who drove across the Manton Avenue Bridge would have seen the large banners hanging on the bridge announcing this cleanup for weeks before the date. The volunteers that I had the pleasure to work with on the Johnston side of the bike path included about a dozen Johnston Police Explorers, a group from the Johnston Historical Society and folks from the neighborhood that straddle Providence and Johnston. We were all out there for the same reason to clean the “Woony” and show our pride for having this treasure in our backyard.
From Promenade Street in Providence to the end of the bike path in Johnston, these volunteers, including myself, worked tirelessly to clean up the muck and detritus left behind by individuals that do not care one iota about the environment or the amazing work that the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, its board, employees, volunteers and partners do on a daily basis to bring a once fetid and derelict river back to life for all Rhode Islanders and visitors to enjoy on a daily basis. Whether it’s riding Providence’s and Johnston’s only off-road bike path or visiting the Red Shed for a quick bicycle repair or inexpensive bike to purchase, the Woonasquatucket River is a diamond in the rough.
Having said that, I was dismayed but not entirely surprised, at the sheer lack of common sense and willful neglect that some citizens and business owners show toward the river and its surroundings. For instance, I spent a half hour cleaning the trash-strewn parking lot of Jade East, which borders the bike path. Why, you might ask would I do it? As a citizen who lives and pays taxes in the neighborhood, I find it abhorrent behavior that a business owner would not have enough pride to keep their establishment’s surroundings clean. I filled an entire garbage bag with empty coffee cups, beer cans and bottles, hundreds of cigarette butts and wiper blades, etc. This stuff doesn’t just go away. Another establishment that also would rather be part of the problem and not the solution is the bar Coliseum. Instead of taking advantage of having a view of the river, which many places cannot attest to along the river, their patrons litter the path with empty beer cans and smashed glass bottles.
Moving down the river, we pulled piles of construction debris left by some hapless contractor or homeowner who was too lazy or too cheap to bring it to the Johnston landfill for proper disposal. Hundreds of tires, shopping carts, a motorcycle and refrigerator were also pulled out. One scrap metal dealer was very happy, however, as one man’s trash is surely another man’s treasure. And this is really the lesson; instead of not thinking and just chucking something out, whether it’s over the fence or out your car window, take a moment and think because every action has a reaction. As the bike path winds past the industrial complex off Goldsmith Street, there is an entire block of houses on Lee Street that sit on a hill and on this hill you can see all of the trash that the citizens who live in these houses throw over their fence as if once it is tossed over, the garbage does not exist any longer. We pulled a lot of this trash down but couldn't get it all.
So what is going to be fair, citizens of Johnston and Providence? More of the same being part of the problem, or becoming part of the solution like all of the volunteers who showed up on April 28 and gave four hours out of their day? Are we going to be a community that doesn’t take pride in its neighborhoods and natural environment? Remember the once derelict train track has become something that everyone can enjoy. Please stop ruining it for those who truly care and use it.