Year-Old Urban Meadow Project Vandalized in Providence
May 29, 2020
The coreopsis were “about to pop” when unauthorized landscaping equipment apparently roared onto the banks of the Providence River and mowed down a $15,000 project.
The Living Edge, a landscape project designed by Adam Anderson, was installed last May by Anderson, a local landscape architect, and several volunteers. The founder of Design Under Sky, and the person largely responsible for the field of sunflowers across the river from Davol Square, was awarded the winning proposal in the “Imagine Us Here: Cultivating Public Space for Community Resilience.”
A disappointed Anderson is concerned the meadow’s shearing was vandalism. A spokesperson for the city said the mowing wasn’t done by the Parks Department or a department affiliated with the city or state. She said city officials believe it was an act of vandalism.
“As a Best Management Practice Area that is being cultivated by the arts, the meadow is an integral part of our sustainable parks system,” Patricia Socarras wrote in an email to ecoRI News. “Though we are unaware of who may have mowed the area, our Parks team will work with partners on next steps.”
The project, sponsored by DownCity Design, the Rhode Island Foundation, and the Providence Parks Department, was conceived to “create an enriched place near the edge of the Providence River that brings people together in the face of climate change.”
Last summer, a collection of coneflowers, goldenrod, black-eyed Susans, native grasses, and other pollinator-attracting plants, nestled among 22 newly planted trees, decorated, colorized, and diversified a 10,000-square-foot section of the Providence Riverwalk just north of the Pedestrian Bridge.
“When it blooms, it’s spectacular,” Anderson said. “We had great spring rain, and it was ready to go.”
This native meadow — intended as a tranquil gathering space that reintroduced some of the lost wilderness of the site’s pre-industrial past and designed to help reduce the city’s heat-island effect — was on the verge of blooming when it was hacked down. Anderson believes the mowing happened the Friday before Memorial Day. The birches, swamp white oak, elm trees resistant to Dutch elm disease, and Kentucky coffeetrees weren’t disturbed.
The meadow and trees replaced an eroded lawn that was energy intensive to maintain and made the river’s edge better suited to withstand storm surge, increased precipitation, and erosion. The project entailed removing sod, planting the trees, spreading perennial seeds, and ongoing weeding. The trees were the most expensive aspect of the project, according to Anderson.
He wrote on his website that the idea behind the design was to create “a hybrid of both a culturally and ecologically resilient waterfront, with the intent that this strategy, in conjunction with variations, could be implemented at the city scale to build a unified public realm from downcity to the bay.”
Anderson noted that the project demonstrated the necessity of a coexistence of natural and man-made systems, and highlighted the importance of landscape as a critical component of urban infrastructure.
The Providence resident is cautiously optimistic in the meadow’s long-term recovery. He’s unsure what plants may appear this year. He’s worried spots will open up for weeds to return. He hopes something can be done to keep people from putting down blankets and trampling through the hacked meadow as it attempts to recover. He’s working to create educational signage that would be posted at both the native meadow and the nearby sunflower garden.