Natural resource | Warwick Beacon
By ETHAN HARTLEY
When does a simple walk in the woods become something more?
Maybe you come across an interesting plant with a unique flower that you have never seen before. Perhaps you will spot a colorful bird launching from a nearby branch. Maybe you are taking this walk with your curious and inquisitive child, which makes the whole experience more wonderful.
Whichever way you end up at Salter Grove Memorial State Park – located near Narragansett Parkway in Warwick, not far from the Cranston Line and Pawtuxet Village – a complete new trail marker system and educational website from Mobile-friendly support (SalterGrove.org) is now available to make sure you can get the most out of your experience there.
An opening ceremony for the trail network will take place on Saturday, May 15 at 10 a.m. The Mayor of Warwick Frank Picozzi and Beverly Wiley, Director of the Warwick Parks and Recreation Department, will be in attendance and making remarks.
“We hope that in the end, this will not only serve visitors to Salter Grove, but also people from other places interested in nature education,” said Peter Becker, the coordinator of the community advocacy group. Friends of Salter Grove (FoSG). “We think that with COVID and people wanting to be more outdoors, this is a great opportunity to initiate this kind of activity.”
The trail network that Becker and FoSG education coordinator Marina Wong have assembled is extensive, given that the park occupies just 14 acres along the coast that stretches north into the village of Pawtuxet. Each of the five trails offers a unique approach to exploring all of the natural beauty that Salter Grove has to offer. And don’t be fooled by the size – there’s a lot to see.
Since the process of collecting data and formulating the website began over a year and a half ago, Wong said the list of species identified in the park has more than doubled.
“This will definitely be an ongoing process for a while, as we now have 250 species of plants and 136 species of birds,” said Wong, a wildlife biologist, of updating the website with new plant and animal species as they are discovered.
The website chronicles all of the plant and animal species identified in the park and has links to additional information about them if you want to learn more. But it goes even further in the “Observations” part of the site, which automatically isolates which plants will flower and which animals might be active on the day of your visit.
The level of detail on each trail really needs to be seen to be appreciated. There are rectangular signs dotted throughout each trail emblazoned with QR codes that can be easily scanned via a smartphone, which link back to the website and provide more information about that specific location – from geological history to local flora and fauna that can be seen, complete with a numbered grid map that matches the markings on each species. There are additional links to as much ancillary information as you wish to ingest.
“We think this will hopefully be a model for nature trails elsewhere in the country,” Becker said.
The website and brands visible throughout the trail system were made possible by a $ 25,000 grant from the Vivian J. Palmieri Charitable Trust. These are the latest in a series of improvements that have embellished and increased the appeal of Salter Grove in recent years.
In 2019, the causeway leading to the breakwater – a popular spot for fishing and bird watching – was completely renovated and refreshed with a state grant of $ 200,000. A few months later marked the opening of the park’s new playground, a sprawling beacon for childhood play that was the result of the collaboration of private donations, in-kind work in the city and another state subsidy. In the months that followed, new benches, picnic tables and bike racks were installed throughout the park.
As a result of all of the upgrades, Becker and Wong are hopeful that more people – especially families with young children who might be drawn to the playground – will venture beyond, discover the nature trails, and will grow up to appreciate the park not only as a pleasant place to Stroll and Go, but as an educational resource.
“The point was really to get them to learn something about plants and animals so that they started to have a relationship in their minds with them. It’s amazing how just knowing the name of something really adds a dimension to your relationship with that thing – whether it’s alive or not, ”Wong said. “With the park and the website as it is now, anyone can go out and become an educator.”
Becker and Wong said they were grateful to their fellow volunteers, Mayor Picozzi and Warwick Ward 1 Councilor Bill Foley, and Brave River Solutions, the website developer, for their continued support. They are calling on all participants in Saturday’s event to recognize any restrictions that apply to COVID-19.