In the hot days of summer, kids from local neighborhoods like Elmwood and Washington Park flock to the ponds and lakes in Roger Williams Park. These ponds have been an oasis for young neighbors for generations. They offer a cool breeze and the wonder of colorful pond turtles basking on rocks just out of reach from shore. Unfortunately, today each summer brings sad news to these happy faces. The ponds are often closed to human contact due to dangerous levels of toxic algae.

Imagine instead a summer full of safe, fun activities on the pond! That is why Roger Williams Park Conservancy is part of a group that is cleaning up the Park’s ponds and lakes for everyone. Our goal is for water so clean the ponds are open to people every day of the year.

Green Infrastructure, Under Construction

You may have seen small construction projects around the Park in the last year. They look like new gardens. These gardens also have paving stones, small basins, boulders, and storm drains. This is “Nature at Work.” The City of Providence Parks Department, is investing $1.4 million in reducing the water pollution that leads to those nasty algae blooms.

The City of Providence is building 40 “green infrastructure” sites in the Park. Under the leadership of Deputy Superintendent Brian Byrnes, the City works with the Rhode Island Green Infrastructure Coalition to lead the Providence Stormwater Innovation Center. The Center is learning from this investment and is teaching other southern New England Cities about using nature to clean up our waterways. This way, the Park, the City, and, the Center build capacity among community and local government partners to restore urban water quality and habitat in creative and replicable ways.

The Roger Williams Park Conservancy is proud to be part of the Coalition, cleaning up our ponds and lakes! Here is one of those projects under construction on May 19, 2020 south of the Natural History Museum. This project will reduce water pollution in Pleasure Lake:


The photo below is what a completed “Nature at Work” project looks like after a rain storm. All that phosphorus (algae food!), silt, bacteria and other pollution would have flowed into Pleasure Lake. Instead the dirty water is captured safely and treated naturally by nature’s own processes in the plants and soils.

Nature at work near Greene Boulevard and Farragut Avenue

Green Infrastructure in Providence

All of us in Providence have a role in reducing water pollution together, no matter where we live. This fun video from a local artist describes why and what we can all do to clean our local ponds and harbors.

How you can help

We are so happy that Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Park Superintendent Wendy Nilsson and the entire City of Providence Parks Department have made this investment. This will ensure cleaner, safer ponds for everyone. These investments also create jobs, and make the city a better place to live, work, and do business.

But we need your help! Roger Williams Park Conservancy encourages you to volunteer for the University of Rhode Island’s Watershed Watch program. The information you collect will will inform the next phase of investments from the City of Providence, the Roger Williams Park Conservancy, and all of our amazing partners.

In the meantime, enjoy the Park knowing that no matter what you are doing, nature is at work for you, and our ponds!

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