Providence to reopen some parks, close certain streets to traffic for socially distant exercise

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The city of Providence is reopening some parks for pedestrians and bicyclists on Saturday, while also closing 13 miles of streets to traffic so people can spread out in their neighborhoods amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Jorge Elorza announced the plans on Thursday, saying the city selected the streets to close based on densely populated neighborhoods that have the lowest percentages of backyard space. The goal is to allow people to walk or exercise outside without being confined to sidewalks, which make it difficult to stay six feet apart.

The city is planning to spend $15,000 on barricades and signage to close the streets. Elorza called it a “low-cost investment” to help spread people out, and said the barricades would be reused in the future.

Local access to the shuttered streets will be allowed for people who live there, emergency vehicles, trash pickups and deliveries, with a 10 mile per hour limit. The initiative is referred to as the “slow streets” program.

Signs will be posted to divert traffic, according to the city, and people will be encouraged to remain six feet apart and wear masks while out in the streets.

The idea has been used in other cities across the country and Elorza says it has proved to be effective.

“We’ve learned from the steps they’ve taken and we believe we can execute on this in a way that’s helpful to our residents and also safe,” he said.

Elorza has been widely criticized for closing parks and trails in Providence to pedestrians, while the state parks only closed their parking lots. Under the new plan, the parking lots at Providence parks will remain closed while the parks themselves will be open to “local access,” for those who can walk, run or cycle to the park.

These are the streets that are closing to traffic on May 2:

  • Oxford and Ontario streets (between Elmwood Avenue and Eddy Street)
  • Vermont and Farragut avenues (between FC Greene Memorial Boulevard and Michigan Avenue)
  • Waverly and Peace streets (between Union and Elmwood avenues)
  • Elmdale Avenue, What Cheer Avenue, and Moorefield Street (between Plainfield and Whitehall streets)
  • Leah and Roanoke streets (between Atwells and Academy avenues)
  • Brown and Camp streets (between Meeting Street and Stenton Avenue)
  • Federal and Ring streets (between Tobey and Dean streets)
  • Governor Street (between Wickenden and Angell streets)
  • Amherst Street (between Erastus and Bowdoin streets)
  • Pleasant Valley Parkway and Nelson Street (between Rosebank Avenue and Walton Street)
  • Parade Street (between Chapin Avenue and Westminster Street)
  • Eastwood Street (between Merino and Heath streets)
  • Camden Street (between Douglas and Chalkstone avenues)
  • Roger Williams Park Loop Road (FC Greene Memorial Boulevard, Maple Avenue, and Cladrash’s Avenue)

These are the parks that will reopen to local access, also on May 2:

  • Blackstone Park
  • Dexter Training Grounds
  • Donigian Park
  • Gano Street Park
  • India Point Park
  • Neutaconkanut Park
  • Riverside Park
  • Roger Williams Park
  • Wanskuck Park
  • All off-road trails such as Blackstone Boulevard and Pleasant Valley Parkway

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

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