When does a simple walk through the woods become something more?
Perhaps you come across an interesting plant with a unique flower that you’ve never seen before. Maybe you catch a glimpse of a colorful bird that launches from a branch nearby. Maybe you’re taking that walk with your curious, inquisitive child, which makes the whole experience more wondrous.
Regardless of how you wind up at Salter Grove Memorial State Park – located off Narragansett Parkway in Warwick, not far from the Cranston line and Pawtuxet Village – a new, comprehensive trail marker system and mobile-friendly accompanying educational website (SalterGrove.org) is now available to ensure that you can get the absolute most out of your experience there.
A ceremonial opening of the trail system will take place on Saturday, May 15, at 10 a.m. Warwick Mayor Frank Picozzi and Beverly Wiley, director of the Warwick Department of Parks and Recreation, will be in attendance and provide remarks.
“We’re hoping that ultimately not only will this serve the visitors of Salter Grove, but people in other locations that are interested in nature education,” said Peter Becker, the coordinator of the Friends of Salter Grove (FoSG) community advocacy group. “We think that with COVID and people wanting to be outside more, this is a great opportunity to initiate this kind of activity.”
The trail system that Becker and FoSG education coordinator Marina Wong have assembled is extensive, considering the park occupies just 14 acres along the coastline that stretches north into Pawtuxet Village. Each of the five trails provides a unique approach to exploring all the natural beauty that Salter Grove has to offer. And don’t let the size fool you – there is quite a lot to see.
Since the process of gathering data and formulating the website began well over a year and a half ago, Wong said that the list of species identified at the park has more than doubled.
“It’s sure to be an ongoing process for a while, because we now have 250 species of plants and 136 species of birds,” Wong, a wildlife biologist, said regarding updating the website with new plant and animal species as they are discovered.
The website chronicles every plant and animal species that has been identified at the park, and links to additional information about them if you wish to learn more. But it goes a step further through the “Sightings” portion of the site, which automatically isolates the plants that will be flowering and which animals might be active on the particular day that you visit.
The level of detail along each trail truly needs to be seen to be appreciated. There are rectangular placards peppered throughout each trail emblazoned with QR codes that can be easily scanned via smart phone, which links to the website and provides more information about that specific spot – from the geological history to the local flora and fauna that can be seen, complete with a numbered grid map that corresponds to markings on each species. There are additional links to as much ancillary information as you want to ingest.
“We think this will be a model, hopefully, for nature trails elsewhere in the country,” Becker said.
The website and markings seen throughout the trail system was made possible by a $25,000 grant from the Vivian J. Palmieri Charitable Trust. They are the latest in a series of improvements that have beautified and increased the allure of Salter Grove in the past few years.
In 2019, the causeway leading to the breakwater – a popular spot for fishing and bird watching – was completely renovated and refreshed through a $200,000 state grant. A couple months later marked the opening of the park’s new playground, a sprawling beacon for childhood play that was the collaborative result of private donations, in-kind city work and another state grant. In the months since, new benches, picnic tables and bike racks have been installed throughout the park.
As a result of all the improvements, Becker and Wong hope that more people – particularly families with young children who may be enticed by the playground – will venture beyond, discover the nature trails and grow to appreciate the park not only as a nice place to take a walk and get outside, but as an educational resource.
“The point really was to have them learn something about plants and animals so they begin to have a relationship in their mind with them. It’s amazing how just knowing the name of something really adds a dimension to your relationship with that thing – whether it’s living or nonliving,” Wong said. “Having the park and the website the way it is now, anybody can go out and be an educator.”
Becker and Wong said they were grateful to their fellow volunteers, to Mayor Picozzi and Ward 1 Warwick City Councilman Bill Foley, and to Brave River Solutions, the website developer, for their continued support. They ask that all attendees of Saturday’s event recognize all applicable COVID-19 restrictions.