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Has The Day Arrived For A Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park?

Should Congress redesignate the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, or parts of it, as a national historical park? NPS photo of the Old Slater Mill.

The Blackstone River Valley runs for 46 miles through Massachusetts and Rhode Island, a bucolic ribbon (in places) that harbors stories of the country's transformation from an agrarian nation to an industrialized one.

It was in the Blackstone River Valley that the country's Industrial Revolution took grip of an entire region.

"The cotton mills themselves became the incubators of a new discipline of work, driven by clock-time and the pace of modernity," notes a special resource study the National Park Service conducted to determine whether the valley, currently designated as a national heritage corridor, should be given the more formal title of national historical park or historic site.

Although industrialization reshaped all aspects of American life, it did not follow a uniform process. The Blackstone Valley exemplifies one of several main paths to industrialization. This distinctive form was so closely associated with the area where it originated that it became known as the Rhode Island System of manufacture. In general, the Rhode Island System was characterized by its relatively small-scale mills, ownership by individuals or partnerships rather than corporations, use of families as the labor force, location in multiple detached villages in a rural setting, and a symbiotic relationship with agriculture. It represents the first successful application of the factory system of manufacturing in the U.S., employing machines driven by a central power source and tended by semi-skilled workers.


Back in 2006 Congress reauthorized the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission for five more years. The commission is scheduled to sunset this October, although the "National Heritage Corridor" label will remain intact.

Through August 26 the Park Service's Northeast Region Office is taking public comment on whether the Blackstone River Valley is deserving of national historical park status. There are a number of consequences of such a designation. For starters, management, interpretation, and preservation of the area would be taken over by the National Park Service. Minus that change in designation, and with the decommissioning of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission, there would be no official entity in place to oversee continued preservation and interpretation of the region.

Among the options the Northeast Regional staff is considering are:

* Let the commission sunset.

Just as they do now, in the absence of the federal commission, a cadre of volunteers and docents in combination with the staff of key institutions like the state parks, the Museum of Work and Culture and Old Slater Mill would continue to offer visitor programming and exhibits. Existing visitor facilities would be maintained and made available to the public by their respective owner/operators.

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The Blackstone River Valley runs through parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. NPS graphic.

* Have Congress designate the region, or parts of it, as a national historical park, an entity managed and staffed by the Park Service.

The new unit would include specific nationally significant sites and districts located within the Valley that possess high resource integrity and effectively convey the industrial heritage themes of the Blackstone Valley. The park would engage in visitor programming and resource protection primarily for the sites and districts that would be named in the legislation establishing the park.  

* Redesignate the existing Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark as a national historic site.

The Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark District would continue to be owned, administered, managed, and operated by the Old Slater Mill Association (OSMA). The National Park Service would have the authority to enter into cooperative agreements with OSMA to preserve and maintain the Old Slater Mill, Wilkinson Mill, Sylvanus Brown House and other characterdefining features within the National Historic Site boundary and to assist in education programs, research, and interpretation of Old Slater Mill and other related industrial heritage sites throughout the Blackstone River Valley.


* Create a Blackstone River Valley Industrial Heritage Network

This option calls for the creation of a permanent program of the National Park Service that would be dedicated to the recognition of the nationally significant story of American industrialization as it emerged in the Blackstone Valley and provide assistance for the long-term protection and interpretation of the Valley’s industrial heritage resources. The network would consist of independently-owned, thematically-related industrial heritage sites, facilities and programs that have met established criteria for program participation.

  You can further research this proposal, and comment on it, at this site.


Just to bring this back around to the matter at hand, I'd like to note that Heritage Network is not one of the mangement options in the final SRS - it was proposed
in the 2010 newsletter, but generated enough confusion that it wound up
in the "considered but dismissed" pile. Which isn't entirely surprising, given the only "Heritage Network" type thing I can think of is Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, which is a special case.

Well Ryan, if I could respond one more time.  I am in the conversation concerning all the great places culturally, geographically and historically and these places give me and others the grounding to deal with the craziness that is the political process.  My answer to every issue known to man, lol, is to get the principle people involved back in the hills (as Mather did) and get to a place where we are all humbled and can look correctly at all these issues.
Only as maybe a joke I bring up politics in the back country.  It's a place where we all can find some peace outside the battle as our WWII veterans found on their R&R.  
I believe that Park supporters need to know the whole picture and be apart of the process considering the impacts and positives.  Abuse of power knows no specific party affiliations and the posts here on Kurt's site touch some important topics that are very relevant in the bigger picture and just may lead to something very good for everyone.
Take care,

I have a question to all...why get on this site regularly to push a political ideology?  This countries' natural and cultural history has to be at the top of our priority list.  The cultural sites, hopefully, will teach us of our past. Let's leave political mumbo jumbo out of it.  Of course you can argue this is a political action, by saving and preserving them we can learn about what we did well and what we regret as a nation.  Preserving natural areas around this country is critical for our well being as a nation (water, air, wildlife, escape from urban centers. etc.).  Public land is still a novel idea and I fear the day we stop valuing public land and it is sold off to private interests for a profit.
The political posturing is BS and needs to stop.  Just sayin...

But you're twisting trying to dodge the frailty of your original statement, Westerner. I would tend to believe that there are good Republicans, just as bad Republicans, and good Democrats, as well as bad Democrats.

To try to demonize those left of center by criticizing their criticisms of any politician, while failing to acknowledge the shortcomings held by those within the same party...

I won't get into the debate over whether Palin is a good conservative, though if working the system to the tune of millions of dollars is the definition....;-)

As to your final statement, re thriving economy, I don't think there's any argument there, for a range of reasons, not just the tax benefits that might be in play.

Google "Republicans criticizing Reagan" and it probably would be about the same lingo.  More fun Googling "Democrats criticizing either Reagan or Palin."  They both are/were true conservatives and would bet the same result would happen if the latter or someone similar were to take office in January '13.  Thriving economy means money in the coffers for Parks both from the Fed's and from private sources:).  Hard to accept I suppose but I believe it to be true. 

Westerner, I'd venture that you're using that broad brush again, and overlooking recent history, when you try to restrict criticisms of Sarah Palin to "some with your leanings."

When the McCain camp announced Ms. Palin as his running mate back in '08, not all Republicans were thrilled with her selection. Just Google "Republicans criticizing Palin" and you'll find plenty of fodder. She again drew critics, including from the GOP camps, earlier this year when she spoke of "blood libel" in the aftermath of the Tucson shootings.

Now, back to our regular programming....

It is interesting for sure!  I was you, as you are now, back when.  Interesting you mentioned Palin-speak.  Don't think the evil conservatives back in the day could have come with anything like the way some with your leanings have attacked the woman and her family.  Kurt's site here IS dedicated to our Parks and special places and funding IS perhaps the most talked about. Anyone that just wants to operate in the black is somehow the enemy.  Where that funding comes from is an issue and best be considered by rational people with the nation as a whole be considered.  What a concept.   I'll end it here unless there's more snark posted.  My kitties are needing some attention:).  Take care.


I'm sure that you bleed when you're cut, have family that depend on you, and are kind to kittens. It's just hard to penetrate the rheteric with Palin-speak terms like "realville", and all of your mentioning of "reality", as if those of us who believe differently haven't seen your One True Light. An impartial man from Mars looking down would call that sort of language the equal 'claiming moral high ground'.

In actual truth, I've been you. I was an activist on the staff of several different well known conservative politicians many years ago. As I aged, I grew a conscience. I rarely admit these days to my friends about those years, but they were part of my growing to myself today, and they help me to understand the clashes of the left and right today. It's also why it frosts my bippy just a tad to have that sort of rhetoric and buzz words bog down a site dedicated to our parklands and heritege.

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