Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor grants the Town of Grafton $10,000 to “Create a Teaching Landscape” at the Fisherville Redevelopment Site

On December 4th The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor awarded The Town of Grafton $10,000 in funds to develop the Fisherville Mill Redevelopment Site’s project “Creating a Teaching Landscape”.  The project aims at developing a suite of educational materials to engage citizens and visitors in the diverse offerings of the site.

The Town envisions the Fisherville Mill Site as a durable regional asset for tourism, education and research focused on the ecology and industrial history of the greater Blackstone River Valley.   In the current project, educators, students and community members will contribute to creating new and compelling systems to engage and interact with the past, present and future of The Blackstone River.

 The Fisherville Mill Redevelopment Site: From blight to public asset

 The Fisherville Mill Redevelopment Site is one the most complex and challenging brownfields in the region. The site has been the focus of an innovative collaborative approach to remediation and redevelopment.  The Southern region of the site has been partially remediated and contains the new Mill Villages Park and Pavilion, The Living Systems Laboratory and an informal boat launch access to the Blackstone River.   Central to the site and within the park, the Living Systems Laboratory (LSL) is an engineered ecosystem that employs innovative bioremediation practices and applied ecology using diverse living systems to remove the historical contaminants from the Blackstone Canal.  The LSL provides is compelling platform for translational research, science education and public outreach, and has attracted researchers and students from all over the country to learn about systems ecology and ecological design.

Over the years, the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor has been integral in garnering public support and helping in the planning of the development of the Fisherville Mill Site, as well as other mill sites in the area, with the co-writing of the South Grafton Villages Master Plan.  The National Heritage Corridor also routinely sends its rangers to the Fisherville Mill site to receive and give regional historical and environmental training.  For example, this past June these rangers held a summer public “Walkabout” through the site in which the rangers taught participants about the history of the Fisherville Mill Site and how the Eco Machine is helping to protect and preserve the Blackstone Watershed.

“Creating a Teaching Landscape”

 The funds from the current grant will be allocated between three sub-projects that will culminate in a package of educational materials that will be accessible to visitors, educators and researchers, and create a replicable model for cross-disciplinary education and remediation throughout the region.  A large portion will be used to fund a group of Master’s students from the Conway School of Design to design footpaths, signage and educational material for the site.  Funding will also be provided to creating a wildlife catalogue for the plant and animal species of the area.

Another portion of the project examines how the Eco-Machine can create value for the Town of Grafton through the cleaning of water contaminated by industrial pollutants.  Some of the funding will be reserved for the design of a nursery inside of the Living System’s Lab, utilizing the cleaned water to propagate flowers to sell.

After these studies are complete, educators and students from a local school will be working on the integration of the results into a comprehensive curriculum that will allow visitors of all ages to interact with the history and ecology of the site.

The funding from the National Heritage Corridor will enable the creation of an innovative “Teaching Landscape” that will meaningfully highlight the unique industrial and ecological history of the Blackstone River, and engage communities and researchers in a replicable interactive learning environment where the past, present and future meet.  The funds will be matched by in-kind contributions from the Town, Conway and other participants.  Presently, the project is projected to begin in the summer of 2015.