Pawtucket – The Old Slater Mill situated along the banks of the Blackstone River in Pawtucket was named as one of several Rhode Island locations included in multi-state national historical park legislation passed by Congress on Friday.
The legislation introduced by Senior Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) in 2013, had the approved Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park Establishment Act (S. 371) garnering acclaim in establishing the first national historical park in Rhode Island.
Multiple sites in Rhode Island approved for the park are the Blackstone River State Park, the Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark District in Pawtucket, the Slatersville Historic District in Slatersville and the Ashton Historic District in Cumberland. Two Sites identified in the Commonwealth were the Whitinsville Historic District in Northbridge and the Hopedale Village Historic District in Hopedale. Additional sites were identified as the Blackstone River, it’s tributaries and the Blackstone Canal.
“Today we are preserving a piece of American history, our cultural landscape, and the natural beauty of the Blackstone River Valley. We’re also bringing greater recognition to Rhode Island’s history and creating new opportunities for tourism, education, and recreation, the driving force in Congress to turn the area into a national historical park,” said Reed on Friday. “The Blackstone Valley is a national treasure that deserves to be preserved. It is the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and this new park will be a place where people can come and explore the roots of modern-day America.”
According to the release, Reed’s quest to nationally recognize the Blackstone River Valley began in 2005 when the Senator ‘pushed legislation authorizing the National Park Service to conduct a Special Resource Study (SRS) to evaluate the eligibility of resources in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor for possible inclusion in the national park system. The study process began in March 2007 in consultation with the Heritage Corridor Commission and its staff.’ The release went on to explain, ‘in 2008, a team of academic scholars visited the region and offered recommendations. In June 2010, the National Park Service prepared preliminary study findings which laid out a variety of options.’
Charlene Perkins Cutler, Executive Director of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridoe, Inc., said, “The story of the Blackstone Valley is as iconic and important to the American identity as that of Plymouth Rock and Independence Hall. I am so glad that the region will have this special recognition as a new National Park and be able to tell many more Americans about the birthplace of industry in the United States. I commend Senator Reed for his continued leadership to help get this initiative through Congress and permanently preserve this special place as part of the National Park System.”
The bill also requested that the park be dedicated to John H. Chafee, as part of the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.
““Designating this area as a national historical park and making it a permanent part of the National Park System is a fitting way to honor our industrial heritage and give Rhode Island the recognition it deserves in shaping our nation’s history,” said Reed. “This designation will help preserve key historical, cultural, and environmental resources for future generations. It will help educate people about our past and contribute to our economic future by supporting tourism and recreational opportunities.”
Co-sponsors of the act included Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former Sen. William “Mo” Cowan (D-MA).
The bill now goes to the President for signature.