Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Heritage Corridor To Participate In NPS Trading Card Program

Eighty-seven National Parks from across the country are participating in the Civil War to Civil Rights Trading Card program with a total of 550 different trading cards covering unique individuals of national importance to the Civil War story. The John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor itself has five trading cards including a soldier, a formerly enslaved man, and Civil Rights activists from the Valley.  Cards will be available at a number of Blackstone Valley events and sites throughout the summer. 

How To Get Cards
The cards are intended to encourage dialog about the Civil War and Civil Rights.  As a result, cards must be earned.  No cards will be mailed, and sets can only be collected by fulfilling specific requirements to receive a card.  However, the requirements are not difficult.  In most cases, you will be required to ask a question, make a comment, or engage a ranger or one of our partners in a dialog about the Civil War or Civil Rights.  See the chart for dates, times, and locations where cards will be available.

Collect All Five Heritage Corridor Cards To Receive A Commemorative Ribbon Bookmark
Once you have collected a complete set of the five Heritage Corridor cards:
1.  Bring the cards to show to a staff member at Heritage Corridor at One Depot Square in Woonsocket, RI between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM any weekday (except holidays).
2.  Bring the cards to show to a Corridor representative at the Civil War talk on August 23 at the Worcester Historical Museum.
3.  Bring the cards to show to a Ranger at the Pawtucket Visitor Center on any Saturday or Sunday during their open hours between June 30 and September 15

Ranger Chuck Arning at the Heritage Corridor at 401-762-0250.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The “American Hachiko” Gets Its First Tourist From Japan - NEW UPDATE AT THE END

by Valerie Paul

Language is no barrier when it comes to Hachiko, the legendary Japanese dog.  A visitor stopped to see the new bronze sculpture at the Heritage Corridor last week.   Although he spoke little English, he was able to communicate to me how happy he was to see the new “American Hachiko,” as he called it.  The dog statue, a replica of one in Japan, was recently unveiled here at the Heritage Corridor’s headquarters where an American version of the Hachiko story was filmed starring Richard Gere.  In the movie, based on a true story from the 1920’s in Japan, Hachiko waits each day at the train station for his owner to return for years after his owner died.

After a short attempt at conversation, the visitor signaled that he would get his laptop from his car.  We set the laptop up on my desk, where the visitor typed in Japanese into a translating program allowing me to read it in English.  I replied in English on my desktop computer, also using a translator, so that the man could read it in Japanese.  Through this method, the gentleman was able to tell me that he was in the U.S. for an extended visit.  He indicated that he was traveling from New York to Boston and that he scheduled the detour to Woonsocket after he heard about the “American Hachiko” from friends in Japan via e-mail. 

We typed back and forth for a while about his trip, the sculpture, and the story of Hachiko.  He explained that the story of our dog statue was “big news in Japan.”  Using his laptop, he showed me several newspaper stories and a video from a Japanese television station that covered the story of the sculpture’s unveiling at the Heritage Corridor’s office on May 19.    When the video finished, he typed, “The Japanese people are very touched by this.” 

Before he left, my colleague, Barbara Dixon, gave him the program brochure that was given out at the unveiling ceremony.  When I typed the explanation of what the brochure was, he gave a broad smile and then typed “This is very special.”

Since the statue was unveiled, there have been many visitors here taking photos.  But the first tourist from Japan, whose name I never got, will always be the one I remember the most.  The Japanese people aren’t the only ones who are touched by this.

Today, while sitting at my desk, I looked up to see my Japanese visitor from last June walking in carrying a large banner.  Once we got our computers set up again, he indicated that the banner was a gift.  The banner says Hachiko in Japanese.  Below that in English are listed the Japanese and American locations of the twin Hachiko statues. He typed, “This is a symbol of US-Japanese friendship.”

He then explained that he had brought a box of the flags that could be offered in exchange for a donation.  When asked what the donations would be for, he explained that he would like to see a new stone plaque next to the dog statue written in both English and Japanese.  (The current plaque is in English only.) 

I am rarely speechless, but this gesture left me with no words to explain how astounded and grateful I was for his generosity.  I continue to be moved by the Hachiko story and by the value placed on Hachiko’s loyalty by the Japanese public.  Now I am equally touched by the generosity of this gentleman who had the flags produced and shipped from Japan so that the "American Hachiko" would have a new plaque for both Japanese and American visitors.

This time, I remembered to get his name.  Thank you, Mr. Morita.

The flags have been sent  to the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council who will be working on a donation program.  Stay tuned….

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ranger Walkabouts 2012

The John H Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor is once again offering a series of Thursday Night Walkabouts this summer. Each Thursday this summer the National Park Rangers, or one of our volunteer partners, will offer a free program somewhere in the Blackstone Valley - a chance for you to explore part of the history or natural beauty of the Valley we call home.
One focus of the Walkabouts this year will be the Bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812.  Although no battles were fought here, the Blackstone Valley was greatly transformed by the war.  According to Ranger Kevin Klyberg, “the War of 1812, and the international embargoes that led up to it, were the key elements to the “cotton mill fever” that swept across the Blackstone Valley between 1807 and 1815. With the importation of British textiles cut off, the number of cotton spinning mills in the Blackstone Valley jumped from eight mills in 1809, to forty-two mills in 1815. Along with the new mills came the first mill villages, truly establishing the industrial landscape that is the hallmark of the Blackstone Valley story.”
Other highlights of the 2012 Walkabout series include new programs about the construction of a new fish ladder at the Pawtucket Falls, and a tour highlighting Charles Dickens’ two visits to Worcester.  The season kicks off with a visit to Hopedale, Massachusetts.  From religious commune to factory town, Hopedale has a long and vibrant history. Beginning with a small group of religious idealist seeking to create a perfect community, Hopedale evolved into the home of the largest manufacturer of looms in America at the Draper Corporation. The tour begins at the Hopedale Unitarian Church, 65 Hopedale Street, Hopedale, MA 01747.
June 21                
Slatersville: America’s First Planned Village
Meet at North Smithfield Public Library, 20 North Main Street

June 28                
Roger Williams’ Providence
Meet at Roger Williams National Memorial, 282 North Main Street

July 5         
Blackstone and the War of 1812
Meet at Blackstone Municipal Center, 15 St. Paul St., Blackstone, MA
July 12
Millbury: Asa Waters, Armory Village, and the Building of a New Nation, Meet at Asa Waters Mansion, 123 Elm Street

July 19                 
Historical Cemetery Walk
Meeting place TBA

July 26                 
Rogerson’s Village, Uxbridge
Meet at Progressive Club Parking Lot
18 Whitin St

August 2     
Great Road and the War of 1812
Meet at Hearthside House, Great Road, Lincoln, RI

August 9     
Sargent’s Trench/Fish Ladder
Meet at Slater Mill Historic Site, 67 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket

August 16   
Ashton Village
Meet at Kelly House
Lincoln, RI

August 23
Civil War in the Blackstone Valley (Talk)
Worcester Historical Museum, Worcester, MA

August 30   
Charles Dickens’ Worcester
Meeting place TBA
Worcester, MA

September 6
The Strike of 1934
Meeting Place TBA
Saylesville, RI

September 13
New Date!  TBA

All programs start at 6:30 PM and are free.  Programs are cancelled in the case of lightning.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Blackstone Valley Prioritization Project Public Forum June 26

The Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRP) is currently working on a collaborative project with local communities to look at growth, specifically in the areas of development, land preservation, higher education, and infrastructure.  The project will result in a set of priorities for development and preservation in each of the towns as well as within the region.  The communities of Blackstone, Douglas, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Millbury, Millville, Northbridge, Sutton, Upton, and Uxbridge are included in this effort.   CMRPC has been collecting data for the project through meetings with staff members, Boards of Selectmen, and other participants, as well as reviews of master plans, open space plans, and other community documents.

The final result of the project will be a set of priorities for protection, development and transportation improvements throughout the Blackstone Valley.  These priorities will help decision-making about specific activities connected to development and preservation at the local, regional, and state levels.  It is also anticipated that future grant and funding decisions in Massachusetts will give preference to projects identified through this effort.

The John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor is actively participating in this endeavor.  “The Corridor Commission has always believed that sustainable economic development and heritage preservation are not mutually exclusive but go hand in hand,” said Donna Williams, chair of the Commission.  “Our historic and natural resources are economic assets, and a healthy economy helps us take care of those resources.  Improving transportation and other infrastructure not only helps our businesses, but, if done right, it can help us protect our natural and historic resources.”  The Commission is especially interested in the regional approach taken by CMRPC.  “It is critical that our Towns pool their resources to address challenges and opportunities that are really regional in scale,” according to Williams.  “And let’s not forget that what makes the Blackstone Valley such a special place is not just individual sites or structures, and that we should try to protect our larger landscapes, as well.” 

At a public forum on June 26th, CMRPC staff will present information and maps showing the areas that have been identified as locally significant in each town.  These may include specific sites, districts, neighborhoods, landscapes, water resources, and infrastructure elements.   During the forum, citizens and interested parties will have an opportunity to review the data and the maps, give feedback about areas they feel are important to emphasize and discuss how to balance development and preservation.

The public forum will be held on Thursday, June 26th in the cafeteria at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School in Upton, MA.  There will be an Open House from 5:30 to 6:30, with the presentation and public forum beginning at 7:00 PM.  For more information, contact the CMRPC at 508.756.7717 or see the website at