On Monday, September 25th, VHB joined community partners and elected officials to celebrate the opening of a new off-road, multiuse urban trail along the Woonasquatucket River Greenway in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island. This new trail runs along the riverbank and adjacent to a sustainable urban greenhouse facility operated by Gotham Greens. The trail not only enhances access to the river, but also serves as a linchpin between two existing trails, providing a missing connection between the Woonasquatucket River Greenway and the Washington Secondary Bike Path. The result is a new active transportation and healthy mobility amenity for this underserved neighborhood, which remains impacted by the vestiges of twentieth century industrial manufacturing.
The VHB team, led by Joe Wanat in the role of Permitting and Design Project Manager, and Shawn Giatas as Construction Project Manager, worked with the City of Providence and Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC) to provide strategic permitting, engineering, and construction oversight services. VHB also teamed with a local landscape designer, Landscape Elements, LLC, to help enrich the trail aesthetics. The complex project involved:
- Developing sustainable and resilient design solutions to solve significant flooding, complicated by contaminated soil requiring a containment solution and pollution mitigation
- Providing structural design to repair a deteriorated river wall, precariously stabilized by weak invasive tree roots and brittle shale
- Assisting in the land transfer agreement between Providence and Gotham Greens, to allow the City to build the public path on private land
- Addressing security concerns and illegal trash dumping with context-sensitive ornamental fencing and bollards that balance access, safety, and security
- Replacing overgrown and invasive landscaping with native, urban species that restored the viewshed of the river
- Acknowledging history through a series of trail pylons that provide details on the site’s former use by General Electric for light bulb base production, as envisioned by VHB creative designers
- Incorporating branding for the Greenway and custom benches working closely with the City and WRWC
At the ribbon cutting event, Providence Mayor Smiley remarked, “We are finally starting to knit together this patchwork of pathways in Providence that will make it more accessible, carbon-free, and in a way to promote this incredible ecosystem that we are so proud to live adjacent to.”
This community initiative was a collaborative effort that involved multiple levels of government. Governor Dan McKee, US Senator Jack Reed, US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, EPA Region 1 Administrator David Cash, RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, RIDEM Director Terry Gray, Narragansett Bay Estuary Program Manager Darcy Young, WRWC Executive Director Alicia Lehrer, and Gloria Morales, WRWC Community Action Program, all of whom spoke at the event, shared excitement around this new trail.