Free kayaking program will take CF youth to the Blackstone




Bob Billington, left, and Mike Martin of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council stand in front of kayaks, part of a new program offering free lessons to Central Falls youth this summer. In the background photo is the building that will be the Council’s new office in Central Falls Landing, which is expected to be ready in October. (Photo Brise by Mélanie Thibeault)

CENTRAL FALLS – When the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council officially relocates to its new premises in Central Falls Landing this fall, the space will provide not only a staff office, but also a new science education center and platform for learning. observation to engage the youth of the Blackstone Valley.

Central Falls youth will have one of the first opportunities at the new site, thanks to a free kayaking program launched this summer, as part of a partnership between the Tourism Council and the City of Central Falls.

Officials last Friday hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the program, which will give hundreds of Central Falls youth free lessons on the Blackstone River and an opportunity to enjoy nature, wildlife and the environment. The Central Falls Parks and Recreation Department will recruit youth for the inaugural program.

“We are very excited and proud to launch this project,” said Mike Martin, Program Director for the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, at the event.

To help launch the program, the Tourism Council received a grant of $ 20,000 to purchase 18 kayaks, two canoes, life jackets, a boat trailer, paddles and pay five instructors. The goal is to get 200 low to moderate income youth on the water this summer, Martin said.

“This is great,” Bob Billington, president of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, told The Breeze. “I’m glad Central Falls dug deep. … Everyone will benefit from it.

A new canoe and kayak rental program will help fund the program, and Martin said they plan to offer the same free program to young people in other towns in the Blackstone Valley in the future. Rental proceeds will be used for maintenance, equipment and instructors. Contact the Tourism Council for more information on rentals.

Local and state officials speaking at the ribbon cutting included Governor Dan McKee, Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Mayor of Central Falls Maria Rivera, former Mayor of Central Falls James Diossa and Terry Gray, Acting Director of the Island Department of Environmental Management.

In her remarks, Rivera said the program will provide young people with a “fun way to stay active.”

“The Blackstone Valley is one of the crown jewels of the state,” said Gray, adding that the heart of the valley is the Blackstone River.

McKee, who worked just down the street at Cumberland Town Hall for a dozen years, thanked John Marsland and the Friends of Blackstone nonprofit for their work in helping to clean up and preserve the Blackstone River over the years. The free kayaking program, he said, will introduce young people to the history of the river, appreciation of nature and fitness.

Matos and Magaziner both noted that this program will provide fun for young people who have had a difficult year during the pandemic.

The project at Central Falls Landing, of the Tai-O Group, involves the renovation of Landing, a nearly 7,000 square foot factory located at 1420 Broad St. in Central Falls, which has been vacant since 2008. The building is located on Cumberland and across from Valley Falls Heritage Park, which has played and will continue to play an important role in their work, said Billington. “The park is an essential part of our education.

Billington said Tourism Council staff, who often run programs in this section of the Blackstone River, have had their eyes on this historic building for years. “Our hope was to always preserve the building,” he said. “We wanted to be a part of it. ”

Once the renovations are complete, the staff will move their offices in downtown Pawtucket, where they have been since 1997, to the third floor of the building, and their dream of having a science education center will finally come true, did he declare. “It will give us an educational capacity all year round.” The hope is that young people “will fall in love with the Blackstone and want to preserve it,” he said.

The Council Visitors Center will remain in its current space in downtown Pawtucket. In addition to the visitor center, the Tourism Council is also active at Festival Pier in Pawtucket, particularly with the annual dragon boat races, which will return in 2022. “We are very active in Pawtucket,” Billington said.

The Tourism Council’s move to Central Falls, which is slated to take place in October, is also part of a larger project to regenerate Broad Street in Cumberland, Central Falls and Pawtucket – to preserve the buildings and character of the area, did he declare. Their goal has always been to be part of the positive change taking place in the Blackstone Valley, to showcase the wonderful places and to build on the culture, character, history and environment of the region, a he declared.

The first floor of the building’s renovation took place in July 2017. The first floor of the building is expected to be a Peruvian restaurant, Billington said. “Residents and locals alike will love it,” he said of the site.



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