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The Newport Arboretum Welcomes Roger Williams University Volunteers

On August 25, 2014, 90¬†students from Roger Williams University descended¬†upon Miantonomi Park for a daylong volunteer project in one of Newport’s largest remaining public woodlands.

Many of Newport’s parks boast historic roots, and Miantonomi Park stands tall among them. Now the site of Miantonomi Tower (a World War I monument designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White), the island’s highest point was once the seat of royalty for the Wampanoags and Narragansetts. The site of lookouts and beacons since before the colonial era, the strategic vantage point was also a site of the 1778 Battle of Rhode Island, and military redoubts can still be found in the park, though now hidden among vines and shrubs.

Newport Tree Warden and Building and Grounds Supervisor Scott Wheeler explains that many of Miantonomi Park’s dominant native species and mature canopy trees have been lost due to pest outbreaks. In their place, the forest has slowly been overwhelmed by invasive trees, shrubs and vines that diminish its ability to sustain a healthy and balanced diversity of flora and fauna. Containment of invasive species is an important first step in a long-term comprehensive management plan for the revitalization of this key natural area. Roger Williams volunteers are making history of their own as they take the first step in what we hope will become a full-fledged, multi-decade restoration of this treasured woodland.

Students targeted the Japanese Angelica Tree (Arelia elata) for removal, found in large stands throughout the 30-acre park. As Miantonomi Park’s once thick canopy of mature trees shrunk by an estimated 30% or more over the last decade, the thorny Angelica Tree (a cousin to our native Devil’s Walking Stick) sprung up in the exposed understory and began to crowd out existing native species. The removal of the species, currently growing in stands well over ten to fifteen feet tall, has made a dramatic difference in the forest and will prevent the tree from dominating the ecosystem.

We want to extend our sincere thanks to our student volunteers for their outstanding service and to Roger Williams University for making this project possible.

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The Newport Arboretum, New England's first citywide arboretum, is a special project of The Newport Tree Society of Newport, Rhode Island.