Riverside Park sits as a jewel of a park along the Woony River Greenway in Olneyville. Where once lay decay after the area declined in World War II, now sits one of the best hidden gems of the Providence Parks system. Visit Riverside Park today, and you’ll see what we mean! Learn more here about how to support WRWC’s efforts to continue revitalizing community around the Woony!
What We Have Now
- Start of off-road part of bike path for walkers and cyclists to ride north into Johnston
- Buffer meadow with flowing grasses and wildflowers supporting wildlife
- Atlantic Mills Fish Ladder
- Outdoor classroom welcoming hundreds of students yearly
- Boat launch for canoeists and kayakers
- Community built playgrounds, surrounded by lush native plant gardens
- Picnic pavilion, custom designed & rough-hewn tables of black locust from the Greenway
- Artistic shade arbors with vegetated trellises
- Community garden plots growing vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers
- Pollinator gardens bringing bees and butterflies
- Red Shed Bike Shop providing bikes, repairs and camps
- Bioswale, rain gardens, and green roofs capturing stormwater
- Outdoor community stage for performances & gatherings
- River Rangers headquarters just north of the park
- 2.3 miles to Waterplace Park in downtown Providence
- 2.3 miles to Lyman Ave at the northwest end of the bike path
How We Got Here
- When Fred Lippitt developed the vision of a Greenway going through the heart of a struggling Olneyville, this site sat as a burned pile of debris. The shell of Riverside Mills remained where once stood a bustling factory with 11 buildings abutting the Woonasquatucket River.
- The former Riverside Mills began in 1863 as a 4-story mill complex run by the Champlin & Downes Company (woolen & cotton textiles manufacturers). In 1837, the company filed for bankruptcy and the business incorporated under the name of Riverside Worsted Mills. A series of buyouts and expansions took place until 1937, when its owner liquidated the property. At its peak, the complex employed 2,700 workers.
- A fire destroyed the Riverside Mills complex in December of 1989. The remains of the buildings were subsequently demolished and people dumped everything from automobiles and tires to household and commercial wastes. The river was overgrown along the banks with unthinkable amounts of debris in it.
- The City of Providence recognized the need for change but received little support. In 1998, the Woonasquatucket Greenway Project (WGP – now WRWC) worked with the State of Rhode Island and the City of Providence to win designation for the Greenway as a Brownfield Showcase Community. We were one of the original sixteen Federally-designated communities selected to demonstrate how partnerships between Federal, state and local governments can expedite Brownfield reuse.
- This designation helped secure funds from the Environmental Protection Agency for initial assessments and remediation at Riverside Mills (as well as Lincoln Lace & Braid).
- We went out to the community asking, “What do you want to see here?”. The answer was a park, and 250 residents participated with us in the planning process. They wanted to see river restoration and recreation opportunities, including a bike path. When inner city children and their families toured the watershed, they felt amazed to find that their neighborhood connected to rural, green communities by the river.
- The designation and initial successes also spurred much more investment from federal, state, and local sources to continue restoration and improvements.
- As the park improved, vacant property across Aleppo Street became affordable housing units with owner occupied housing, further revitalizing the neighborhood.
- Realizing part of Fred’s vision, the off road section of bike path opened in Riverside Park in September 2007, and the park itself was open and ready for recreation in 2008!
- WRWC has helped to leverage over $4 Million towards creating this gem. We continue to champion further revitalization efforts, and your support is key!
Visit our timeline for more major milestones of the Greenway & WRWC!