By Maureen Schwab
On Sept. 15, Green Island residents woke to a steady rain that at first seemed like nothing out of the ordinary. On that morning, neighborhood children waited for and boarded school buses at the usual times and places, and were safely transported to school. Shortly thereafter, the intensity of the rain increased and as it did, so did the level of rain water flowing in the streets of Green Island.
At the height of the storm, water at the corner of Canton St. and Quinsigamond Ave was approximately 3ft high, and Crompton Park was submerged under at least 1 ft. of water and raw sewage. The community center, located in Crompton Park sustained damages to goods and property which later had to be discarded. . A friend who lives on Scott St. told me that a car in her driveway was completely submerged b, and the first floor apartment had flooded. Fortunately, the rain stopped and the sun came out by noon. Yes, there was property damage, but no one was hurt and the children returned home safely from school if nothing had ever happened.
The week end before this disaster hit Green Island; I was strolling through Canal Fest. The centerpiece of the event was a recreation of the Blackstone Canal on Harding St, upon which one could take a canoe ride. As I watched the rain flood Quinsigamond Ave that Thursday, I could not help but to think back to Canal Fest. Though inappropriate to be thinking so at the time; I thought how wonderful it would be to have water flowing through Worcester, and that here (Green Island) is where the water is, and was and always will be. The neighborhood is situated above the point where two of Worcester’s largest waterways the Mill Brook (now contained within a man made structure) and the Middle River meet (in the vicinity of Brownian Square). When the rain is heavy, although buried beneath concrete and asphalt, the waterways will act like rivers.
Peter Tsigas, owner of Café Neo, 97 Millbury St, organized a meeting for residents and business owners to voice concerns and to hear from City officials regarding plans to help solve flooding problems in Green Island. The solution is neither easy nor inexpensive. City Manager M. O’Brien and Public Works Commissioner Robert L. Moylan plan to hold a community meeting in the future to discuss steps the city is taking to help alleviate future flooding.
The section of Crompton Park, at the corner of Canton and Harding that will be the site of the new playground was less affected than the community center. Several days after the flood, a bulldozer appeared to begin work on the playground project. It was upsetting to suddenly see the side of the hill that has been there for over a century torn apart to make way for the playground.
Robert Antonelli , Assistant Commissioner of the Park and Rec Dept., explained that the design of the playground includes adding structure and dimension to the otherwise flat hill , giving children added grassy areas to play on. Soon, we can look forward to three play structures an expanded swing area, and sturdy new fencing surrounding the area for safety. The project may be finished as soon as late fall, but a grand opening will be held no earlier than Spring of 2012.
We can also look forward to a wonderful bikeway. According to documents found on the Ma Dept. of Transpiration web site, Green Island will be the site of Segment 7 of the Blackstone River Bikeway, a 48 mile paved trail that connects Providence R.I. and Worcester.
Construction is expected to begin Winter 2013-14. The proposed path is along Quinsigamond Ave to Union Station, a distance of 2.6 miles. In addition, there are plans to make the bikeway a designated section of the East Coast Greenway, a 2,900 mile trail system that connects cities from Maine to Florida.
National Park status for parts of the Blackstone Valley, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution , is being promoted and supported by Congressman McGovern, State Senator Michael Moore and several city council members. Which parts of Worcester would be considered is yet unclear, but property on Harding Street, site of the Blackstone Canal and Quinsigamond Ave, part of the Mill Brook should be included.
Green Island has a gritty, hard boiled history made up of factories, immigrants, scoundrels and thieves, three deckers and several generations of men and women who worked extremely hard not only to survive, but for their children to succeed. It is very much a part of the Industrial Revolution history and story and should be included.
Green Island is ready to take on an important and improved new status if a National Park, a beautiful bikeway and ongoing improvements to the neighborhood continue. The quality of life for residents will improve as the neighborhood develops its historical and recreational features.
In June of 2011, The Main South Community Development Corp was awarded $600,000. Which will be used to develop brownfields into housing on Grand St? A small piece of property on Quinsigamond Ave, owned by NSTAR, also a brownfield , is property that can someday be part of a national park, or at least a segment of a beautiful bikeway.
This land has been chosen (without neighborhood discussion, input or consent) to be the home of the Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) operations and maintenance facility , with the full support of our city officials. Also on Quinsigamond Ave, The Department of Transportation plans to move a storage facility to this location. Plans for both projects are still pending the purchase of the land and other factors.
Why is Green Island being considered for these pollution producing projects with the approval of City Hall when we stand a chance to become a part of a National Park? We lost our Community Development Corporation and with that we lost any voice that would argue for environmental and social betterment in this neighborhood. Our neighborhood leadership, what there is of it, does not take Green Island’s historical importance seriously and prefers to think that all of the improvement should to be economic.
The Canal District, of which Green Island is a part, is much, much more than the area above Kelley Sq. The real history and yes; THE WATER is right down here in Section Two, Green Island. I sincerely hope people reading this article will respond and join in efforts to bring bike paths, national parks ,fresh air and a new sense of pride to Green Island.