Public Health & Recreation

Ocean State’s First Park Offers Much


Olney Pond is just one feature of Lincoln Woods, which includes picnic areas and hiking trails. (Colleen Cronin/ecoRI News)
Special Places Logo Lincoln Woods

LINCOLN, R.I. — Walking the loop around Lincoln Woods State Park early in the morning, one might see young runners from the Providence Reserve Officers’ Training Corps jogging in circles — a tradition in the troop for the past 100 years.

Like the cadets, many find refuge under the shade of Lincoln Woods’ tall trees, located close enough to Rhode Island’s urban core to make a convenient trip but teeming with natural beauty that transforms the area into a separate world only a few exits away from Providence and Pawtucket. The 627-acre park includes Olney Pond and beach and is Rhode Island’s first designated state park. Named after the 16th president of the United States, Lincoln Woods was acquired by purchase, gift, and condemnation of farmland and woodlots of the Olney, Arnold, Comstock, and Mitchell families of Lincoln, according to the park’s website.

“It’s peaceful,” Rebecca Watson, a frequent Lincoln Woods walker, said, “but not too far off the beaten path.”

For Watson, it’s one of the few places she feels safe walking. “I don’t get creeped out,” she told ecoRI News one fall afternoon while preparing to take a lap. In part, that’s because there are always staff and lots of other walkers doing laps around the lake, which makes for good people watching.

KC Brody, Watson’s walking partner for the afternoon, agreed that on a Saturday, “it’s jamming” with people there to appreciate the park’s beauty.

Lincoln Woods sign
The park, the state’s oldest, was named after President Abraham Lincoln and dedicated on his birthday, Feb. 12, 1909. (Colleen Cronin/ecoRI News)

“It’s gorgeous, especially in the fall. You get to look at the woods,” Brody said.

It’s the beauty that brings Michael McMaugh to Lincoln Woods, both for personal and professional reasons.

It is usually a peaceful place “for the most part,” he said. But it’s such a popular spot that sometimes it gets a little crowded on a nice day in the summer.

McMaugh runs around the trails most mornings, he brings his daughter and dog to play, and he also mountain bikes and kayaks there occasionally.

But catch McMaugh at the park during golden hour, and he’s likely lugging a few large cameras around and looking for the most scenic and well-lit spots. McMaugh, a photographer, often recommends clients come to Lincoln Woods for photos.

Although the park is a busy recreational area, with walkers, runners, bikers, and soccer matches on warm days, it also inspires creativity. While McMaugh took photos of Raychel Smith’s young son (she was happy to get the foliage in the shots while it was still red and golden around the park), a few other stragglers wandered around with cameras.

Alex Fischman and Andrea Mato visited the park from Providence on a bright and brisk November afternoon with their dog and a camera.

Mato, a master’s student at the Rhode Island School of Design, was trying to work with light — taking abstract photos of the way it shone on the lake and the leaves as an early sunset approached.

While she shot away, their dog ran in wild circles, crunching around in the leaves.

Fischman said the pair and their pup, Leo, come to Lincoln Woods every few weeks for “fresh air, quiet, places to walk.”

They moved to Rhode Island in July, and Fischman found the park by Googling “lake.”

Although their typical Lincoln Woods jaunts include picnics by the water and exercise for Leo, Mato planned to visit more frequently so she could keep studying the light.

The park “is the closest nature that we can find,” she said.

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