Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Massachusetts that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Establishing the Blackstone River Valley Greenway and designating parts of the Connecticut River as a National Blueway are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Deval Patrick and the state of Massachusetts, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Massachusetts and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Massachusetts highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Blackstone River Valley Greenway
Massachusetts and Rhode Island have committed to work as partners to complete the Blackstone River Valley Greenway, which consists of the Blackstone River, historic Blackstone Canal, and a bike path. The greenway runs the length of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, which extends from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Providence, Rhode Island. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation is currently constructing a segment of the 50-mile bi-state greenway to connect these New England cities and link the Rhode Island border to the State Heritage Park in Uxbridge, Mass.
A major facet of the program in Massachusetts is the addition of bike trails that will traverse major cities, including Boston, and complement the commonwealth's outdoor recreation legacy while providing an alternative to driving.
Over the course of the Connecticut River's 410-mile journey from the Canadian border to Long Island Sound, the river ties together four New England states — Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The river is the centerpiece of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses the entire watershed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has invested in land-conservation and habitat-restoration activities throughout the watershed and is beginning to work with the states and other stakeholders in integrating the refuge into a broader National Blueway project.
There are many communities in Massachusetts for whom the Connecticut River has been their lifeblood for commerce and recreation. Springfield, the major urban area in western Massachusetts that lies along the Connecticut River, is one of many communities that needs more access points to and from the river to bring citizens to the waterway. Establishing a National Blueway will help to raise awareness of the river's recreational and natural resources and reconnect people to the water.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Massachusetts, for example, the Department could provide technical and financial assistance to the state and communities to develop access points along the river. Once the water trail is established in areas along the river, the Department could designate those portions of the Connecticut River in Massachusetts as a National Blueway. The Department could also support the Blackstone River Valley Greenway Initiative in Rhode Island and Massachusetts through planning, technical assistance, and funding.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus – including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.