Buckeye Brook Coalition seeks to enlist 400 homeowners, expand
Warwick Beacon Online
by Erica Ferdinand
Sepember 15, 2009

In the wake of founder Steve Insana’s death, the Buckeye Brook Coalition is reinventing itself.

In so doing, they are reaching out to everyone in the community – something coalition president Paul Earnshaw refers to as “community building.”

According to Earnshaw, the coalition has been nurturing relationships with just about everyone: RIAC employees attend their annual Earth Day clean-up of Spring Green Pond, Bishop Hendricken funds a student’s mentorship with the group, and the city of Warwick provides them with refuse bags and logistical support. The coalition performed a study with Save the Bay and also works closely with Mill Cove Conservancy, says Earnshaw.

The Buckeye Brook Coalition is a Rhode Island designated watershed council that focuses on the brook and its surrounding watershed.

The brook is about 4.5 miles long. Its headwaters begin in Spring Green Pond, near Hoxsie Four Corners, and runs under Airport Road, through Warwick Lake and into Mill Cove, where it meets Narragansett Bay.

In an effort to raise awareness of its cause and reintroduce itself into the community, Earnshaw said that the coalition recently reached out to nearly 400 homeowners whose properties directly abut the brook.

He said, “there is so much knowledge out there, it’s [the brook’s] not just about the buckeyes”: Earnshaw says there is a part of Buckeye Brook for everyone. “The people in the organization are the heart and soul of what gets done,” he said.

In a similar vein, coalition member George Shuster, who with his wife will host a coalition fundraiser on Sept. 20, says that “there’s nothing more important than having neighbors go out [into the brook]” to take part in the “day-to-day constant monitoring of the ecosystem.” Shuster said that Insana went out day-to-day to check on the brook, and this type of monitoring provides an “instant pulse” on the condition of the wildlife and quality of the water there, making small changes more easily noticeable.

To foster community involvement, Earnshaw invited several other community groups, including the Conimicut Village Association and the Pawtuxet River Authority and Watershed Council, to attend the coalition’s upcoming fundraiser. Earnshaw says he wants community members to be able to find projects they’re “passionate” about.

And there is a lot to be passionate about.

At a Rhode Island Rivers Council public hearing last week, the council by unanimous vote re-designated the Buckeye Brook Coalition as a member.

The coalition was also awarded $5,000 from the Rivers Council for a restoration project they are undertaking in the area where the brook meets West Shore Road. The coalition is looking into whether a sewer leak caused phragmites, an invasive non-native species of tall grass, to grow and crowd out native plants. Another major project spearheaded by Earnshaw is the brook’s designation as a Wild and Scenic Waterway by Congress. The process of gaining federal protection, which could take upwards of three years, would be “significant,” says Earnshaw. Although he and Insana had hoped to speak before Congress about the brook together, Earnshaw is determined to follow through on their goal in Insana’s absense.

Most of all, Earnshaw wants to expand the group’s educational endeavors. In the past, the coalition sponsored Rivers Council training sessions for adults. Currently, Earnshaw is mentoring a student from Hendricken on a long-term project. The student designed a study to investigate the levels of glycol, a pollutant found in airplane de-icing fluid, present in the brook. Glycol, says Earnshaw, leaves behind a “rusty, orange” color on vegetation and animals, including turtles.

The coalition’s fundraising event will take place this Sunday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George and Stephanie Shuster, located on Mill Cove at 15 River Vue Avenue. DEM Director Michael Sullivan will speak at 4:45 p.m., and there will be food, drinks, entertainment and children’s activities. The cost is $15 per adult ($10 for coalition members); children are free. Tickets are limited. Reply to 737.1278 or slvp21@gmail.com.

For more information, go to buckeyebrook.org.