Merino Park stands as a shining victory for change on the Woony River Greenway. What was once closed off and abandoned, now stands as one of the most well used parks in the Providence Parks system. Visit Merino Park today and any weekend during soccer season, and you’ll see for yourself! Learn more here about how to support WRWC’s efforts to continue revitalizing community around the Woony!
What We Have Now
- 18.6 acre city-owned park in the Hartford neighborhood
- Bike path spur linking Hartford Park to new Woony Adventure Park and Buttonhole Golf Course
- Pedestrian bridge connecting neighborhood to bike path & Riverside Park
- Artist painted murals teaching Do’s & Dont’s of the Woony River
- Tot lot and community playground built in a day with KABOOM!
- Picnic areas & lighted basketball courts
- Soccer fields hosting some of the largest weekend gatherings in Providence
- 0.25 mi walking track along forested edge of park
- Buffer meadows with flowing grasses and wildflowers supporting wildlife
- Staircase providing easy entry to Hartford Park community
- 2.8 miles to Waterplace Park in downtown Providence
- 2.1 miles to Lyman Ave at the northwest end of the bike path
How We Got Here
- Merino Park got its name from the nearby former Merino Mill which later became the Lincoln Lace & Braid Company. The site was formerly a sheep farm, a factory yard, a swimming and skating pond, a soccer field and abandoned park, a landfill dump, and a road-salt storage area.
- The park was closed and blocked off due to its physical condition and visual isolation, limited neighborhood access, and security issues.
- In the 1990s, WRWC saw its potential as a community asset and advocated to restore and reopen Merino Park as part of the future expanding Greenway. Challenges with the site remained, however. The main structure of the remaining nearby mill complex burned in 1994 and was razed in 1997.
- Due to the level of contamination on the site, RI DEM declared the property a ‘Brownfields’ site and the EPA awarded an EPA Region 1 grant to conduct an environmental assessment. In 1998, WRWC worked closely with the Providence Parks department and Hartford neighborhood to clean up the Brownfields site and reopened Merino Park to the public, making Merino Park ready for play!
- WRWC also worked to reopen the once closed Sheridan Street pedestrian bridge over US RT-6, connecting the park to the Manton Neighborhood and providing safe passage for families.
- The WRWC continued to work closely with the EPA and Trust for Public Land to also clean up the Lincoln Lace & Braid site, completing work to cap the old landfill site in 2006.
- The WRWC also continued the work to integrate the Hartford neighborhood more fully into the Greenway by creating the Dyerville-Merino Trail. The trail opened in 2014 and splits from the main trail system, running along the south bank of the river on the Lincoln Lace property and connecting into Merino Park by a pedestrian bridge over the river.
- The WRWC has helped to leverage millions of dollars towards reviving this amazing park. WRWC continues to champion further revitalization efforts, and your support is key!
Visit our timeline for more major milestones of the Greenway & WRWC!
Merino Park & Woonasquatucket Teen Adventure Park Industrial History
- The Hartford area was the site of a large soapstone quarry that the Narragansett Indians used as a workshop. They produced instruments, such as soapstone pots, dishes, and pipes, for both family use and commercial trade.
- Hartford was primarily rural, agricultural region throughout the 1700s and 1800s. In the early 1800s the region became highly industrialized.
- The Waterman family established Merino Mill in 1812. Merino Mill manufactured a soft, cashmere-like material called “merino cloth,” which is from the soft wool of the famous Merino sheep. Merino sheep originate from Spain and highly regarded in England and thus brought to Rhode Island by English settlers.
- Merino Mill company built Hartford’s first residential village to meet the needs of the mill workers and their families. Merino Village consisted of stone houses, a general store, and a water supply.
- The original Merino Mill was destroyed by a fire in 1841 and was rebuilt in 1851 by the Franklin Manufacturing company which used the mill to produce cotton cloth. By 1888 the company was operating 30,000 spindles and employed 325 workers. In the late 1800s the plant was bought by the Joslin Braiding Company which used the mills for the finishing of tubular and flat shoe laces, laced braids, and corset laces. The Woonasquatucket River produced the equivalent of 250 horsepower at the former Merino Mill as late as 1907.
- Industrial development increased along the river around the mid-1800s due in part to improved transportation facilities such as extending railroad lines that ran along the river. Trains allowed direct access to the mills along the river for delivery and distribution of raw materials and the shipment of finished goods.
- In 1930, the mills were sold to the Lincoln Lace & Braid Co., continuing the production of lace products.
- Residents of Irish ancestry were the largest group through the first half of the 1900s. During the first quarter of the 1900s and after WWII, a significant number of Polish people migrated to the region. By 1946, there was also a substantial group of Italian-Americans who had settled in the Hartford and Manton areas as well. Immigrants from various European countries also resided in the region.
- The industrial base remained until World War II. The textile industry experienced a dramatic declining because low labor wages in the south drove industries to move their businesses south. This decline resulted in plant closures and job dislocations for many residents.