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New Wild River Signs in Rhode Island

Wild and Scenic rivers have new open signs while some consider walling us out. It’s only natural to speed past a quiet river flowing under a noisy road. We are blessed to be surrounded by waters, fresh and salt and few commutes are without close proximity to a stream. Helping to celebrate our connections with waters and promote our access to them, the Wood-Pawcatuck Wild & Scenic Rivers Stewardship Council has joined with our RIDEM to stand up signs at 14 places throughout South County where water flows. These new signs will help us understand the significance of rivers nourished by seasonal, thin waters, encourage us to enjoy them more and also teach us about all who rely on them.

In Hyla Brook, his ode to a special and seasonal source of inspiration, Robert Frost wrote, “We love the things we love for what they are.” 

It’s not natural to change speed when waterskiing or pull up lines because someone anchored a business right in your old path. An application before CRMC to construct a three acre private shellfish farming business in South Kingstown’s Segar Cove, currently working its way through the permitting system, would cause us to do just that. Instead of a new helpful green sign, you might see acres of floating plastic bags.

Dennis Migneault, South Kingstown representative to the Stewardship Council wrote, “DEM and the WPWSRSC recognize that educating the public and this new designation is a vital part of their mission to protect, preserve and enhance this wonderful resource. Providing this new signage at DEM access points is a wonderful opportunity to encourage folks to think about the importance of the watershed and what these 110 miles of rivers mean to them personally.” The Wild and Scenic designation required a monumental amount of collective effort and now stands as a proud monument to how critical moving waters are and how undeniably amazing this river system is.

It’s not only the asking, the granting or the taking of a large piece of a public resource like a salt pond that’s of issue, it’s the desperately needed understanding of what’s right and what benefits the most. Access to our natural world in such a time of turbulence, or not, helps us keep our balance and we can’t afford to lose that.

New green signs are waiting for you in Charlestown at the Shannock Horseshoe Falls, on the Wood River in Exeter at Route 165, at the Barberville Dam, Mechanic Street Dam, Switch Road Access and Dow Field. Over in Richmond, there are signs at the Lower Shannock Falls, where the Beaver River flows under Route 138, at the Pawcatuck River in Biscuit City and at the Wyoming Dam Fishing access. Signs are also installed at the Chipuxet River at Taylor’s Landing in South Kingstown and on the Pawcatuck River at Bradford, Post Office Lane and Main Street in Westerly.

The sheer weight of so much testimony and invoiceable time should indicate this application is inappropriate. Who certifies the scale of importance for recreation in a salt pond versus expanding a private business which offers no compensation to historic users or apologies for land taken?

The two groups noted, “The Pawcatuck is very popular for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and other forms of outdoor recreation. It’s a beautiful river that supports Rhode Island-raised stocked trout and warm water fish species.” There also exists a scattered but resilient population of wild, native brook trout in cold water regions of The Wood River.

Potter Pond is also very popular for all sorts of recreation and supports a few small guide service businesses. They exist in fine communion while benefiting from the resource. Tilling a private terrestrial plot, stacking rocks on edges of fields, sowing summer greens is in no way similar to anchoring a business with hard corners where young kids play and old men steer skiffs, much as they have done for generations.

Canoeing Rhode Island Rivers

There is much to weigh when the issue is gaining or losing access to water, fresh or salt, moving or still. The Stewardship Council’s passion for these rivers, streams, brooks and seasonal trickles deserves our praise, which would be best shared in a drifting kayak or a patiently restored Brian O’Connor canoe. They volunteer so we can escape, see, swim, fish, float, talk, be silent, even hold for a brief moment in time, a gorgeous four inch brook trout, a tough char, a survivor against all odds in a terribly busy outside world. Access to waters must always be protected and those asking to limit ours must bear the full weight of scrutiny. Losing access to a salt pond, like Segar Cove, is unnecessary and might be irreversible.

Robert Frost also gave us

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out

And to whom I was like to give offense

Consider that.


  1. Deborah Dalrymple

    Many fond memories of canoeing the Wood and other RI rivers and ponds. This sounds like a great project.

  2. Dick Lemoi

    Great article, save our rivers and public spaces, nothing like nature, it’s there for us to admire and not develop


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