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Russell Moore: Pawtucket–A Bucket Full of Dreams

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

 

From the Pawsox to Slater Mill to the Boys and Girls Club, Pawtucket has so much to offer its residents and visitors.

It’s that time of year again. GoLocalProv has released its annual Rhode Island community rankings, which always spur dialogue and friendly rivalries among the state’s cities and towns. And while this column’s deadline was before the rankings were released, using past history to gauge the future, I’m sure that my hometown of Pawtucket is nowhere near the top.

As someone who was born and raised in Pawtucket, and resides here now, it’s incumbent upon me to argue why we should be. Someone’s got to do it. The truth is, despite the stigma in the news media and the unfortunate nickname “The Bucket”, Pawtucket is a fun, safe, and convenient place to reside, work, and raise a family.

Speaking of which, there may be no better place in Rhode Island to bring a family for a day than McCoy Stadium, to watch the Pawtucket Red Sox (usually) win. Thanks to the late Ben Mondor, a Rhode Island visionary who bought the team in 1977 when the stadium was in shambles, Pawtucket is now home to one of the best minor league ballparks.

What’s more, unlike going to Fenway Park in Boston, where a family needs to take out a bank loan to enjoy a ballgame, Mondor and his successors have always kept parking, ticket, and concession pricing low enough that working class families can easily afford. McCoy stadium is a great way to see the major league stars of tomorrow, when they’re at their hungriest, hustling and working their hardest.

And every time someone steps into McCoy Stadium, they’re visiting a historic place. Pawtucket is the only place in the world that can lay claim to the longest professional baseball game in recorded history—33 innings back in 1981.

That’s not even close to the only history we’ve got here in Pawtucket. In fact, Pawtucket’s Slater Mill is the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in America. Samuel Slater came to America in 1793 with nothing but the plans in his mind for a cotton textile mill. He ended up right in modern day Pawtucket, got the financing he needed, and the American Industrial Revolution was born. Today, the site is on the national register of historic places, and school children from across the state tour Slater Mill which is basically now a museum.

Pawtucket’s oldest and largest park is named after—you guessed it—Samuel Slater. Slater Park is wonderful—I argue it’s among the best in the state—where people walk their dogs, ride their bikes, kayak the Ten Mile River, and children play baseball on the several fields located there. It also showcases tennis courts, and this past Saturday, the park showcased the Rhode Island Tennis Festival.

Youngsters can also learn how to play sports, get along with their peers, and build their character at the Pawtucket Boys and Girls Club. The Boys and Girls Club remains one of the best ways to keep kids safe, off the streets and out of trouble after school hours. The Pawtucket Boys and Girls Club is one of the best clubs in the state.

Pawtucket houses only one of several ice skating rinks in the state—the Dennis M. Lynch Arena. People from all over Rhode Island, and even out of state in some cases, flock to Pawtucket on a weekly basis to skate or play hockey.

Outside of sports, the city also has plenty for the artistic crowd. In fact, Pawtucket has also carved itself out a niche for itself in Rhode Island for being a community focused on the arts. We have scores of independent artists living and working in the Hope Artiste Village located on Main Street. That location features an excellent farmer’s market in the fall and winter.

And each and every September the city puts on a month’s long celebration of the arts featuring a festival gala, Dragonboat races, and culminating with a free concert by the Rhode Island Philharmonic, which attracts people from throughout the state.

Another one of Pawtucket’s strengths is its diversity. People from varied ethnic backgrounds, financial incomes, and ideologies coexist, for the most part, peacefully in the city. And the neighborhoods, Darlington, Fairlawn, Pleasant View, Downtown, and Country Side—are as diverse as our people.

Like most of Rhode Island, our taxes in Pawtucket certainly leave something to be desired. But I take comfort in knowing we’re currently guided by the capable hands of Donald Grebien, a thoughtful and hard working mayor who is taking bold steps to lower the cost of government. And our city employees—the firefighters, police, municipal workers, and teachers—take a backseat to no one.

Thanks to relatively cheap housing prices, Pawtucket is a place where the American dream is alive and kicking. Home ownership is easily accessible to the middle class and working families in safe, reliable neighborhoods here.

The city may not always get the great press it deserves, but in the end, it’s still a great place to live, and in my very subjective opinion—Rhode Island’s best community.

 

A native Rhode Islander, Russell J. Moore is a graduate of Providence College and St. Raphael Academy. He worked as a news reporter for 7 years (2004-2010), 5 of which with The Warwick Beacon, focusing on government. He continues to keep a close eye on the inner workings of Rhode Islands state and local governments.

 

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