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August 6, 2021

Take a walk along misery mile, Vrinda Mathur, MID Industrial Design, 2022

by mathurvrinda

Take a walk along misery mile, Vrinda Mathur, MID Industrial Design, 2022


This week, I visited a few locations in the Washington Park Neighborhood to gain an understanding of the landscape. I started my walk down Allen’s Avenue, past the hurricane barriers, and turned into Collier Point Park after I spotted unassuming signage.

The park was designed in the year 1996 by William Warner Architects and spans six acres in size with open views of the bay, fishing docks, bridges and more. The park has been in the news lately with regards to public resistance towards its ownership by Dominion Energy. I read this excerpt from the Providence Journal to learn more about the issue.

This entire stretch of land is lined by industries like Sim’s Metals, Sprague, National Electric amongst others. Naturally, the state of air and water quality is compromised and other environmental issues continue to impact the residents in nearby areas. Even though the park is landscaped and offers beautiful views of the bay, it fails to impress in comparison to other parks, especially those on the East side of Providence. The Washington Park Neighbourhood Association (WPNA) is working with the city and the Department of Transportation to beautify the area and offer ‘adopt a spot’ options to the neighboring industries.

My next stop. within a one-mile radius was Public Street. The street falls perpendicular to Allen’s Avenue and leads to a 25-foot wide view of the bay. However, this street was not as ‘public’ until a few weeks ago.

“From its name, you’d assume that Public Street was intended for the public. But before the attorney general’s office intervened last winter, fences blocked off the road’s eastern terminus where it meets the Providence River. People from low-income neighborhoods in South Providence and Washington Park were cut off from one of the few places where they could walk to the waterfront and fish.” 1

On either side of this street are grated barriers with views of the mountains. Not the beautiful, green ones but those made with coal, salt, and recycled metal parts. On discussing further with Linda Perri, the President of WPNA we spoke about visualizing a cleaner, greener space where people from the neighborhood could spend their evenings close to nature, stroll, fish, and experience the outdoors.

The neighborhood around Washington Park has a tree equity score of 63/100 and is marked in bright yellow on the tree equity analyzer. As per the State of Providence’s Urban Forest report, this area has <10% urban tree canopy while the intended canopy cover goal stands at 48%. The other crucial demographic and environmental indicators of this area include people of color, senior citizens, unemployment rates, children, people in poverty, temperature, and health index. 2

A satellite view via Google Maps highlighting Allen’s Avenue and the industrial area

No wonder Allen’s Avenue is commonly referred to as the ‘Misery Mile’. In fact, Linda and I spoke about creating some banners for the area highlighting this very issue.

Back at the SEG office, I had a team meeting with four other members across different departments including environmental advocacy, food systems, and green events to talk about some ideas and design interventions that may be useful in furthering our communication with frontline community members. I have been working on designing accessible infographics on the theme of tree equity by highlighting the equity score and embedding a call-to-action as a digital take away. In the process, I am interested in exploring the use of AI chat bots, performance artists, and potentially a website dedicated to the conversation. While a lot of these concepts are still in the planning phase, together with all stakeholders we hope to launch them over the next couple of months.

What I am most excited about is a curated walk for members of different neighbourhoods to come together and immerse themselves in an educational, invigorating walk across low and high tree canopy areas. The goal of this experience would be to bring people together, whether it is local organizations, community leaders or the community members themselves, and start a dialogue around the need of better tree canopy and its many benefits to the environment, health, wellbeing, thereby providing a platform for every person to put forth their opinion, ask questions and find a sense of togetherness.

More on that in the next blog.


1 https://www.providencejournal.com/story/news/local/2021/07/27/coastal-access-crmc-public-street-providence-right-way/5384116001/

2 Urban Tree Canopy Percentage by Neighbourhood: “State of Providence’s Urban Forest” Report. April 2008. Providence Parks Department, Forestry Division, https://treeequityscore.org/map/#12.73/41.79961/-71.39243, https://opportunityatlas.org/

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