Providence, Rhode Island
The historic Neutaconkanut Hill park has been improved with trail work and facilities for visitors.
The Rhode Island Departments of Environmental Management and Transportation have worked cooperatively since 1996 to implement the RI Trails Program funded under the FHWA Recreational Trails Program.
A grant from DEM through this program has enabled the Neutaconkanut Hill Conservancy and the City of Providence Parks Department to improve trails by clearing brush, installing a variety of erosion control measures, installing trail markers, and installing wooded boardwalks in low-lying areas. In addition to doing the work with hired trail crews, the NHC has been blessed by a wonderful partnership with Providence College. Literally, hundreds of PC students have provided volunteer labor to restore the trails and vistas on Neutaconkanut Hill.
The Neutaconkanut Hill (The Hill) project represents a model of collaboration between a public agency and private non-profit to make improvements to an urban recreational area rich in history, archaeology, geology, and nature. Nu-ta-kon-ka-nut is the Narragansett Indian meaning “home of squirrels.” At an elevation of 253 feet. the Hill totals 88 acres of woodlands and is located on Plainfield Street in Providence, RI. The Hill is a natural habitat, home to deer, fox, wild turkey, rabbits and a multitude of small animals and birds. Many of the original paths within The Hill were created in the 1930’s by the WPA.
In 1829, the King family purchased the Neutaconkanut Hill land, from heirs of the Borden family. The King family tree includes such prominent and historical Rhode Island families as the Sprague (past RI governor), Borden, Allen, Waterman, Lawrence and Weeden. The original King Homestead stood on a 16-acre portion of the Hill, known as King Park. The last surviving member of the family, Abby King, willed what remained of the land to the City of Providence, with the stipulation that there be no development on the land.
Reminders of the past: the remains of a band stand where Sunday afternoon concerts were held in the 1930s and 40s. The King Monument, erected in 1905 by Abby King in memory of her family, still stand as a tribute to the King Family who left us this gift of nature.
The Recreational Trails Program funds approved for the trail improvements at The Hill were targeted to addressing erosion problems on the historic ski slope and other steep sections that are prone to erosion more than gentle grades. Work also included; installing a wooden post and guardrail barrier, vista clearing, re-clear and open one 500-foot section of abandoned trail, and construction of benches at scenic points.
As of the Fall 2012, the trail project at Neutaconkanut Hill is mostly complete, and exemplifies what a public and private trail improvement partnership can accomplish to benefit current and future generations of trail users in this historic urban woodland.
Trail Mix, the Newsletter of Rhode Island Greenways, described a fall event on the trails:
"As darkness began to fall on the top of Neutaconkanut Hill on a late October Saturday evening, right on cue, a full moon slowly rose in the sky to provide a natural floodlight for the Halloween activities for the families gathered on Providence’s highest elevation. A glowing campfire provided additional light mesmerizing the gathering, hot mull cider warmed everyone’s insides, and story tellers and musicians stirred the imaginations of small children. The gathering, sponsored by the Neutaconkanut Hill Conservancy (NHC), celebrated the fall season and the continuing work of additional trail improvements in the park complex."
With the assistance of a Recreational Trails Grant Program Grant received in August 2010 from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), the Providence Parks Department and the NHC are teaming up to continue a multi-year effort to restore one of the best urban forested trail systems in New England. The 18-month DEM funded program will improve 3.2 miles of wooded trails.
Neutaconkanut Hill is part of an 88-acre recreational Neutaconkanut Park complex in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Providence. The sports fields located on the “foot” of the Park along Plainfield and Killingly Streets are aware of the incredible beauty, the natural features, and the history on the Hill.”
Along with her fellow NHC stalwarts, Rob Fitzpatrick and Mike Lusi, Elli has been the heart and soul behind the effort to restore the trail system and the viewing vistas on the Hill.
As you walk along the trails with Elli, she points out the King Family Monument nestled in the woods that commemorates the family that donated much of the land on the Hill to the City of Providence in the early part of the 20th century. She will also point out spots on the hillside where the Narragansett Indians once gathered at the time of Roger Williams.
To gain access to the entrance trailhead to Neutaconkanut Hill, park in the parking lot next to the Recreation Center on Plainfield Street. The trailhead is just behind the swimming pool. For more information about the Neutaconkanut Hill Conservancy or to volunteer, visit the web site www.nhill.org.
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