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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.stillhousecove.org 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Erstwhile EWPA volunteers showed up on August 5, 2023 to fight back loosestrife and other invasives that have run rampant in the Park and Marsh at Stillhouse Cove. Participants included: Deborah Tellers Palladino, Michelle Maynard, Jerry Long, Andrew Goodale, Steve Johnson, Colin Murphy, Barbara Rubine, and Donna Fieldman. Charlie, Donna, and Barbara carefully trimmed the limbs on Strathmore Place that were hitting cars and trucks.
Every Friday morning for the last six weeks, 40 Cranston school kids from all over the city (grades K -6) came to Stillhouse Cove as part of a summer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) camp program. Their teachers used the Cove as a laboratory regarding local ecology. EWPA’s Barbara Rubine and Donna Fieldman explained the challenges that erosion poses to the marsh and park and highlighted the different ways the problem is addressed at this location. On the last day of camp, in an effort to support the work of the EWPA, the students sold shells and rocks they had found along the shore and painted.
Exposition was grouped by grade level: K – 1 Group with teacher Berkis Rodriguez and TA Sheryl Peacock; Grades 2 – 3 with teacher Lena Cabral and TA Donna Pagano; and Grades 4 – 6 with teacher Keith Lavin and TA Hedy Tessier. This is the third consecutive year that Stillhouse Cove has hosted a STEM program.
Thanks to Scott Molloy for sending on this 1952 bus schedule for the Edgewood – Eddy Street line. It was a “trackless trolley” that required a turnaround in what is now Stillhouse Cove Park. Note that the first inbound departure was at 5:23 AM and that last outbound bus from downtown arrived at 12:35 AM.
On June 17, 2023, several volunteers spent a drippy Saturday morning cleaning up Stillhouse Cove Park. Colin Murphy, Tom Ladue, and Donna Fieldman concentrated on cleaning mold off the Park’s benches. Linda Sardone and Melissa Carden (with son Charlie) focused on the beach area and marsh edges. The benches look great!