Mashapaug Community Boating Center


Mashapaug Community Boating Center


What is the history of the community boating center? When and why was it built? How has it been used?


Ora Star Boncore


When I initially read my research questions for this paper, I instantly thought that this paper would be a breeze to write and would take very little time or effort to complete. Now, a few weeks, dozens of hours and countless failed attempts later, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Annie and Holly assigned me the following questions: “What is the history of the community boating center? When and why was it built? How has it been used?”, which at first glance seemed easy enough to answer. I started off my search for this information by doing a simple Google search, but quickly found that all mention of the phrases “Community Boating Center” and “Providence, RI” turn up information on the new Community Boating Center located at India Point Park.
After using Google, I searched ProQuest, the Rhode Island Historical Society website, the city archives and the Providence Journal website. Through the Providence Journal, I found several articles documenting Holly’s work with the pond and the Urban Pond Procession and eventually found a short quote about the boating center:
“The Community Boating Center, created in 2000, is a picturesque spot on the southern end of the pond. Unfortunately it is presently closed to the public. The Parks Department does not want to encourage boating on Mashapaug Pond. It is a fitting place to gather as it represents what the pond once was, and what it can be, if the community city and state work together to clean Mashapaug up.”

While it was refreshing to finally find some information on the Mashapaug Pond Community Boating Center, this one quote only really gave me less than a third of the information I needed for this paper. After learning this, I got a recommendation from Holly for someone I could contact about my project—namely the organization Groundwork Providence. The next day, I called up Groundwork Providence and talked to Ray Perreault, Program Director of Trees 2020, who claimed that Groundwork Providence had nothing to do with the creation of the Mashapaug Pond Community Boating Center. I also emailed Joe Vaughan, the Executive Director of Groundwork Providence, who said the same thing, but added that he had heard Groundwork Providence might have had something to do with the project, but it was before his time so he didn’t know. Ray told me I should talk to Beth Charlebois, Director of Neighborhood Parks and Recreation for the City of Providence, since she would probably know more than he would. At this point, I asked Holly for more advice on people I could contact and she suggested that I email and call Heather Gaydos, Joe Wojtanowski and Joe Baer. I tried to contact them all and none of them responded to me.
Finally, after losing all hope that I’d ever find anything substantial, one of the people I contacted responded to my email. Beth Charlebois emailed Robert McMahon, Superintendent of Parks and Recreation, on my behalf and got me some answers. On Friday morning, she sent me a message she had received from Robert stating:
“Built in 1999 to provide canoeing opportunities for Providence youth on the pond. Summer programs provided canoeing for about 200 kids/summer. Closed in 2006 per request of Rhode Island DEM because of concerns with toxic algae resulting from storm water runoff after rainstorms in the summer. Until phosphorus loads going into the pond from nearby land uses and roads are reduced the boating center will be closed.”

In the last hours before this paper was due, I finally got answers to my questions and was adequately capable of writing this paper. In the end, I finally found out that the Mashapaug Pond Community Boating Center was created in 1999, not 2000 like I had read earlier, so children could canoe, but was eventually closed down in 2006 because the pond was toxic.
Even though I finally found out what I needed to learn about the Mashapaug Pond Community Boating Center, the fact that the information was so hard to come by is very telling and reflects on the situation of the Mashapaug Pond Community Boating Center and Mashapaug Pond as a whole. Mashapaug Pond and the Community Boating Center have been mostly forgotten about and uncared for by the general populous. Even though the Mashapaug Pond Community Boating Center still physically exists, Groundwork Providence, the organization that helped create the boating center, has completely disassociated itself from the Community Boating Center. In addition, the fact that only a limited number of people know of the Mashapaug Pond Community Boating Center and those that do have any information on it are basically unreachable only adds to the lack of interest people have for the pond as a whole. While in the end I was eventually successful in finding the information I needed for this paper, the Mashapaug Pond Community Boating Center is all but forgotten by the general populous and the toxic pond that it sits on continues to exacerbate this by further pushing people away from the center. Even though the Mashapaug Pond Community Boating Center was intended to bring people together to celebrate and embrace the pond it lays on, it currently does the exact opposite.

[see attached file for further research and bibliography]




Ora Star Boncore, “Mashapaug Community Boating Center,” Reservoir of Memories, accessed September 23, 2020,