Warwick Beacon Online - Warwick, RI
Buckeye Brook gets first 'look-see' from National Park Service
Jul 10, 2008

A representative of the National Park Service picked one of the hotter days of summer to visit Warwick , but he relished being away from his air conditioned Boston office to hear from the champion of Buckeye Brook why the stream would be a candidate for the state's first wild and scenic stream.

Jamie Fosburgh was here Tuesday at the invitation of Steve Insana, president of the Buckeye Brook Coalition. Insana wasn't alone in showing off what the brook has to offer. Joining in the welcoming delegation were representatives from Save the Bay, the Environmental Protection Agency, the city and the Greenwich Bay Watershed Group and the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program.

Fosburgh said that the brook meets the first criteria of gaining the designation shared by more than 11,000 miles of 165 streams and rivers across the country " the brook is free flowing and without dams. Also, while Buckeye Brook looks like a trickle compared to some of the rivers on the list like a section of the Missouri, it is not too small to gain the designation says Fosburgh.

And Melvin Peter Holmes, wetlands coordinator of the EPA office of ecosystem protection, believes Buckeye Brook is a great place for the state to start.

"I think they picked a good river to get a designation," said Holmes. He notes the stream is of historical significance, offers recreational opportunities and is a herring run.

Wearing a faded Buckeye Brook Association T-shirt, Insana met Fosburgh at the Knights of Columbus Hall parking lot off Warwick Avenue where an aerial photograph of the Buckeye Brook watershed clearly showed the brook's flow from north of Warwick Pond and then south from the pond to Narragansett Bay " a stretch of about three miles.

The photograph also showed the proximity of Green Airport to the stream system as well as housing developments and roads. It's the airport that worries Insana.

"I'm not totally opposed to this airport expansion," Insana said prefacing remarks about the need to preserve the brook and, in particular, the herring run.

His concern is centered on proposals to extend Runway 5-23 and to extend the safety zones of Runway 16-34. Ironically, as Insana sees it, an extension of Runway 5-23 to the north, which would require relocating Airport Road , could serve to restore the original brook watershed system. Some time ago, Insana said, the stream flowing into Occupasstuxet Cove was dammed at Warwick Avenue thereby reversing the flow from Spring Green Pond into Buckeye Brook.

A northerly extension of the runway would require entering those wetlands, and as Insana sees it, the possibility of restoring the stream from Spring Green Pond. That action could offer another system for a herring run, he said.

Lengthening the safety zones for Runway 16-34, the shorter of Green's runways, is problematic.

President and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, Kevin Dillon, has suggested the use of engineered material arresting system (EMAS) at either ends of the runway to comply with FAA safety standards. EMAS would reduce the area needed at the ends of the runway from 1,000 to 600 feet. Nonetheless, in order to get the required space, RIAC would need to enter the brook's watershed south of Warwick Pond.

"I'm doing what I'm doing not to stop expansion," Insana told Fosburgh and other assembled before the tour, "this is called preservation."

Asked later what he would have RIAC do, Insana said he would like to see the airport pursue efforts to prevent the introduction of de-icing chemicals to the brook and, overall, a greater effort to preserve the Buckeye Brook watershed.

Fosburgh said the first step to the brook's designation as a wild and scenic river is to have it placed on an inventory of streams under consideration. Ultimately, he said, the designation is gained through two means, either by Congress or by the governor.

What Buckeye Brook lacks in size and wilderness, it makes up with history.

Visiting the site of a former mill near the brook's mouth at the bay, Insana said the mill was one of the first in the area and because it was built in a tidal flow area operated both on an incoming and outgoing tide.

"This little mill here led to the whole economic growth of Warwick 'it started all here," he said. The group also visited area historic homes and cemeteries and saw areas where American Indians had encamped.

Insana said yesterday that Fosburgh will work on nomination papers during the summer and that he hopes to gain resolutions of support for the designation from the City Council, the governor and General Assembly.

"I would like to see the whole stream and the lake (Warwick Pond) designated. In the long run it will benefit the city and the residents," he said.

Mayor Scott Avedisian applauded Insana's efforts, saying that the attention brought to the brook can only help preserve it as a herring run and an environmental and esthetic asset to the city.