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The State of Edgewood’s Street Trees

Most of Edgewood’s 1,621 street trees were judged to be in relatively good condition. However, a vast majority suffer from conflicts with power lines and sidewalks. There is a paucity of young trees on our streets indicating that many older trees will not be replaced. And there is a striking lack of diversity among our public trees. More than fifty-five percent of the trees are comprised of just two invasive and exotic species: Norway Maples (32%) and Callery Pears (24%).  This means that the canopy is highly vulnerable to disease and pests. Whatever their shortcomings, these trees are crucial to the health of our community by providing the following:

  • Carbon Storage: 860.5 tons ($147 thousand)
  • Carbon Sequestration: 19.09 tons ($3.26 thousand/year)
  • Oxygen Production: 50.91 tons/year
  • Avoided Runoff: 224 thousand gallon/year ($2 thousand/year)

These are some of the conclusions of a recent inventory of the trees along our neighborhood’s roadways that was initiated by the Edgewood Waterfront Preservation Association (EWPA).

Edgewood’s street trees

The Inventory Process

In the Fall of 2023, the EWPA recruited eighteen neighborhood volunteers to conduct an inventory of the area’s “public trees”. Funded by an Urban & Community Forestry Grant from the RI Department of Environmental Management, Doug Still of This Old Tree Consulting trained the volunteers in tree identification, measurement, and assessment as well as the use of the Forest Metrix tree inventory software on mobile devices.  For purposes of the 2023 Edgewood tree inventory, “city-owned trees” were defined as being within six feet of the street curb.  Cranston’s Tree Warden, John Skorupski, participated in the training. The inventory results will be provided to the City of Cranston to populate a database to be used by the Tree Warden and Engineering Department to manage existing trees, and will be GIS compatible. The data will also serve as a baseline for future assessment of the growth or decline of Cranston’s tree resource. While this was a pilot project, EWPA hopes that the street tree inventory effort will be extended to all neighborhoods in Cranston in future years. The City has recently applied to the RIDEM for an RI Urban Forests for Rhode Island Technical Assistance grant that would address Cranston’s entire tree canopy, especially its disadvantaged communities. Cranston’s “tree equity” score of 86 (out of 100) is one of the lowest in the State. If accepted, the city would receive funds for assessment, planning, and tree planting.

Doug Still describing the leaf bud patterns of different tree species.

The inventory covered the Cranston neighborhood between the Providence line and the Pawtuxet River, and between Narragansett Bay and Interstate 95.  The area was mapped and divided into 9 different survey zones. The survey did not include trees on private property, at public institutions, or in parks. Each pair of volunteers was assigned a zone of contiguous streets typically requiring a total of approximately 20 – 24 hours to complete. To supplement their tree identification skills, surveyors made use of flora identification applications on their phones.

Doug Still providing training to the volunteers

Lessons Learned from the Inventory Process

The Volunteers all complained of the challenge posed entering the Forest Matrix software data using a small phone screen and strongly recommended using tablets in the future. Some found judging tree condition challenging so that will merit more attention in future trainings. As the inventory crews worked their zones wearing their safety vests, they encountered a range of responses from local inhabitants. Most were very interested and supportive of the project. However, in some cases, suspicions were voiced: What were they doing there? Were they going to cut down the trees? During future inventories in other Cranston neighborhoods, advance public education should be a key component.

Maria Wall and Andrea Klimt measure a maple tree on Glen Avenue

Findings of the Tree Inventory

Edgewood’s street tree canopy lacks diversity. This makes the area’s trees vulnerable to disease and other threats.  For example, Edgewood could lose 48.9% of its trees to the Winter Moth. As a rule, it is recommended that an urban forest should not be made up of more than 10% of a single species, 20% of a single genus, and 30% of single family.  In Edgewood, more than 55% of the trees are comprised of just two invasive and exotic species: Norway Maples (32%) and Callery Pears (24%).  Maples as a family dominate with approximately 45% of Edgewood’s public trees. Forty-seven percent of the neighborhood’s inventoried “leaf area” is made up of invasive species. Despite their shortcomings, the trees have a replacement value of $3.41 million.

The area’s trees are in relatively good condition.   Two-thirds of the trees were judged to be in either excellent or good condition. However, twenty-five dead trees were found.

The size of Edgewood’s trees does not portend well for the future of the canopy. Tree size was measured by DBH (diameter at breast height).  For replacement purposes, the smallest class of trees (0 – 6 inches DBH) should predominate.  In Edgewood’s case, these young trees constitute only 18% of those inventoried.

Most of Edgewood’s trees suffer from conflicts.  Trees are challenged by utility wires, sidewalk incursion, and other factors.

The majority of the area’s trees do not have sufficient room to grow.  Only Twenty-six percent of Edgewood’s street trees have room to grow properly.  54% of trees are constrained within 4’ by 4’ plots.

If you interested in getting involved in the crucial issue of Cranston’s tree canopy, contact Donna at

Another Use of Stillhouse Cove

Did you know that for years Stillhouse Cove Park has been used as a site to test the strength of radio station signals in compliance with the Federal Communications Commission?

The Mounting Threat to Stillhouse Cove

Increasing Frequency of Extraordinary High Tides

The high water levels and winds of the December 23, 2022 storm drew parallels to Super Storm Sandy in 2012. We voiced our concern that it had undermined Stillhouse Cove Park’s embankment. But this winter, within less than two months, we have experienced three storms with almost equivalent tide levels and flooding. The storms took place on November 22 and December 18, 2023 and January 13, 2024.

Ocean Avenue is flooded
Rhode Island Yacht Club is engulfed.
The Park’s vulnerable bank is inundated.

The January 13, 2024 Storm

Christmas Cove Fog Beauty


We’ve all heard of Rhode Island’s housing shortage.  According to the Rhode Island Audubon Society, it also applies to our local water raptors.  Consequently, the Edgewood Waterfront Preservation Association (EWPA) recently erected a nesting tower in Stillhouse Cove Marsh.  Qualified tenants will be welcomed next Spring. 

EWPA worked with Charles Clarkson from RI Audubon and Wenley Ferguson of Save the Bay to identify the most suitable site in the Marsh. EWPA purchased the materials and volunteer Charlie assembled the platform and post.  We obtained a permit from the RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC). And just prior to Thanksgiving, Eddy and Augusto from Contemporary Landscaping dug a hole for the post and erected it during a low tide with strong assistance from EWPA board member Donna and new neighbor John.

Help Us Address The Threat to Stillhouse Cove

We need your help to reinforce the embankment of the Park that has been eroded due to recent flooding. This will be EWPA’s major focus during 2024.

On any given day, our neighbors and friends from Cranston and the surrounding communities enjoy Stillhouse Cove in many ways. They participate in yoga classes, walk dogs, take prom pictures,  and access the shoreline or Narragansett Bay via the boat ramp. The Park and Salt Marsh are the focal point of the neighborhood and its popularity grows each year due to environmental restorations and landscape improvements made to this property over the years.

Stillhouse Cove Park and Salt Marsh

While we all enjoy the beautiful views this site provides, what most visitors don’t see is the hidden damage to the shoreline and marsh from increasingly common extreme weather.  The daily news of the consequences and dangers of climate change seem to happen elsewhere, not here.  But that is not the case.  Coastal erosion is putting our own salt marsh and cove at risk in places not visible to local residents and daily visitors.  As stewards of Stillhouse Cove for almost three decades,  the Edgewood Waterfront Preservation Association (EWPA) wants you to know about it and to ask for your help.

In December of 2022,  the extreme storm that flooded the RI Yacht Club and lower Ocean Avenue pounded the salt marsh.  Waves crashed against the banks of the Park, topped the seawall recently installed by the Yacht Club, and flooded the eastern end of the Park at Ocean Avenue.  The high tide and crashing waves caused extensive hidden damage to the  embankment and the underlying infrastructure that preserves it. In 2013  the EWPA obtained Federal funding to repair damage from Superstorm Sandy that had washed away ten feet of the Park shoreline. With technical input from the Coastal Resources Management Council and Save the Bay, funds were used as part of a “pilot” project to change the slope of the embankments and stabilize the area with custom designed “coir envelopes” that project partners hoped would protect the area from worsening erosion.  And it worked for ten years, until it didn’t. 

2012 Damage to the embankment caused by Super Storm Sandy

Coir is a natural material made from coconut fibers that is biodegradable.  The fibers are woven together to form rolls of fabric that are then turned into custom designed sand filled envelopes that are strategically contoured along the shoreline.  Starting at the level of the marsh, each of these envelopes, or “burritos” (as we called them back then) are stacked one upon another with a setback of a few feet.  It is the setback that creates a “staircase” like structure that ultimately creates a slope that is more dissipated and a stronger defense against wind-driven waves and rising tides. The bottom coir envelope forms the foundation for the subsequent steps that reconstruct the walls of the Park.  The storm that occurred on December 23, 2022 washed away the bottom step of our hidden staircase and this extensive hidden damage now puts the embankment holding up the Park at risk.  

2013 Installation of the Coir Envelopes

The embankment and damaged coir envelopes need important repairs to avoid significant damage to the Park.   We need to create a new “bottom step” that is secure enough  not to wash away.  Two years ago, when a northeast storm was predicted, the EWPA tried to shore up the bottom of the embankment with another product made from coir, coir logs.  The logs, bought in New Hampshire and transported by Ray Mooney of Pawtuxet Cove Marina, were installed by a contractor hired by EWPA.  Dislodged during a severe storm, they were reinstalled by EWPA volunteers and neighbors during one of our shoreline cleanups.    Given all the maintenance performed on the embankments over the past ten years by EWPA, the coir envelopes worked longer than anticipated but were no match for the storm on December 23, 2022.

This past spring EWPA reached out to some of our previous partners from 2013 and sought opinions on the damage we observed.  The contractor who installed the coir envelopes in 2013 came to the site to meet with us and Save the Bay to assess the impacted areas.   A plan to repair the embankment with an estimate to do the work was generated that day and the costs are significant and need to be done as soon as possible.  The work to protect the banks again will be more challenging this time because the slopes are already vegetated and no machinery is allowed in the tidal zone of the marsh.  New material will need to be installed in front of what remains of the coir envelopes.  The materials will be either new coir envelopes or larger, more substantial coir logs that are secured with stronger supports to keep everything in place.  

Wenley Ferguson of Save the Bay and Dave Lager, Team Leader at SUMco, assess the damage.

Plants will need to be installed into the new structures and in front of them to add more protection from strong waves and higher tides.  Since coir is biodegradable and sunlight hastens its deterioration, covering the structures with soil and planting into them again will help prolong their effective life.  All of this work must be done by hand or done with machinery positioned at the top of the bank..    We will not know until construction begins how much of the Park will be impacted from this repair.  It is safe to assume from our previous experience that there will be damage to the lawn and that some portion of the Park will be off limits for a while.

Although we don’t know when the next severe storm is coming, we know it is inevitable and we have an obligation to do all we can to save this beautiful spot which is enjoyed by so many in our community.  Please visit to follow the work being done by your neighbors and friends who donate their time and resources to protect this historic property that is so environmentally fragile.  Stillhouse Cove Reservation was created in 1915 by the Metropolitan Park Commission.  It has been owned by the City of Cranston since 1984 and officially adopted by the Edgewood Waterfront Preservation Association since 1996.  

Severe storms threaten Stillhouse Cove

Is it really “Doghouse” Cove?

According to the AVMA, Rhode Island ranks 46th in the nation in dog ownership with only 26% of households having a mutt (Idaho is first with 58%). You certainly wouldn’t know that in this neighborhood! Every day, Stillhouse Cove Park is the destination for multitudes of Edgewood’s dogs and their owners who know each other through their pets. EWPA volunteer Ray Mooney regularly stocks the dog waste bags in the several dispensers next to the Park. Some of us can remember a time when owners did not pick up after their dogs. Thankfully that practice is long gone and everyone participates in keeping the beloved waterfront area pristine.

Photos by Thomas Wojick

2023 International Coastal Cleanup at Stillhouse Cove

On September 23, more than 33 volunteers braved the rain and showed up to clean the shoreline at Stillhouse Cove. The event was one of many such cleanups throughout Rhode Island coordinated by Save the Bay.

Visit with Trustee of Vivian J Palmieri Trust

Barbara Rubine welcoming John Murphy

On August 15, 2003, John Murphy, a trustee of the Palmieri Trust, met with the EWPA board to review current work and to hear about upcoming projects at Stillhouse Cove. The Trust funded the rose garden and has been a generous supporter of our efforts to improve and maintain the park for several years. Mr. Murphy, a former resident of Edgewood with deep roots in the community, is very familiar with the history of Stillhouse Cove and commented on the transformation of the park and wetland area over recent years. The entire board was present and appreciated the opportunity to meet with Mr. Murphy.

The Palmieri Trust rose garden

Protecting the Cove’s Trees

Sticky post

The trees in Stillhouse Cove Park that provide us with shade and beauty require constant care and EWPA and its partners have recently performed several critical tasks.

Three Ash trees were treated on 8.12.23 for Emerald Ash Borer.  One tree was already infected, but treatment should help prevent further damage. Damaged parts will need to be pruned to make the damage less noticeable.  Steve and Scott of Northeast Tree made the injections which were paid for by City of Cranston through the funds available to the City Tree Warden John Skorupski.

Schwartz Tree and Landscaping donated services trying to repair several bad pruning cuts performed at some point on these same Ash trees in an effort to limb up low lying branches.

For the first time EWPA invested in mulching around almost all of the trees in the park.  This was done at the recommendation of the RI Tree Council to create a larger ring around the trees to protect their surface roots.  The effort is more than aesthetic mulching:  mulching encourages insect activity and protects the roots from damage from mowing, and it does look nice. Mulch also keeps the soil moist which hydrates the trees and enables the trees to absorb stormwater better than dry compacted soil.

It was observed that several juniper trees that self seeded on the banks under the cottonwood trees were subjected to unauthorized pruning.  The person who did this cut the tops off of the trees and threw the branches into the creeks behind the trees in an effort to hide the branches.  The Cranston Tree Warden has been notified of the unauthorized cutting of native juniper virginiana trees growing on the edges of the salt marsh that are vital to erosion control.  EWPA has a healthy working relationship with City personnel and seeks authorization every time we need to address tree issues that include, but are not limited to, removing invasive trees and seedlings, spraying trees for infestations, and limbing up trees that cause issues for vehicles and pedestrians, etc.

We will also be working on removing invasive white pear trees and Tree of Heaven seedlings at our October cleanup.  Approval from the Tree Warden will be sought in advance.

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