The Blacktone Valley Tribune
April 2016

UXBRIDGE — Teaming up with the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park (also known as River Bend Farm), along with several other organizations, Alternatives Unlimited, Inc. provides cost-free spring fun for the whole family. First on April 17 from 1-3 p.m., Alternatives partners up with the Blackstone River Watershed Association (BRWA) to host its annual Clean and Green Fair at River Bend Farm (located at 287 Oak Street in Uxbridge). Next, for those of you who’ve been craving to cast out your fishing line all winter, or those who’ve been waiting for the chance to learn how to fish, Alternatives will be hosting its second annual Family Fun Fishing Day at River Bend Farm on May 21, at 10 a.m. Both events attract hundreds of people each year, while corresponding with Alternative’s inclusive mission of providing opportunities for adults with developmental and psychiatric disabilities to apply their skills and abilities to engage with the community and help coordinate events.

Supported individuals have had responsibilities when organizing these events including:

  • Serving as a member on the planning committee;
  • Being a greeter to welcome the public;
  • Verifying and overseeing the amount of fish caught.

“Last year, it was really great that there was such a remarkable turnout,” said Alternatives Program Director Jennifer MacNeill. “We provided a lot of opportunity for the people we support in sharing their skills and talents with the community.”

The Clean and Green Fair follows BRWA’s annual river cleanup, which involves picking up trash along the river and removing anything damaging to the environment, helping the canal become healthier each year.

Members of the BRWA and Department of Conservations and Recreation (DCR) stick around after the river cleanup to help co-host the Clean and Green Fair, which provides food, drinks, educational games, face painting, and other activities for kids and families to enjoy.

The fair has an environmental-friendly theme expressed through its games and activities, which focuses on teaching kids about sustainability and the importance of leaving a positive carbon footprint.

Families and participants will be given a free seedling and are encouraged to take it home and plant it in their backyard or some place special.

“It’s really sad to see the trash at River Bend because we put stuff there as human beings,” said MacNeill. “It’s most rewarding to see our individuals use their skills and abilities to come together with this endeavor. It’s a great way for them to be inclusive.”

Beginners, kids, and experts alike are encouraged to attend the Family Fun Fishing Day event. Experienced fishermen will be on site to give brief lessons and tips throughout the event for kids and participants who are interested. A limited number of cost-free fishing pole rentals will be available for those who don’t have one.

The event is “catch and release” and offers a range of prizes for the winners, strictly based on the quantity of fish caught. The river will not be stocked with fish, so whatever you hook are the indigenous fish that roam the canal every day.

The prizes will be broken up by age categories and include tackle boxes filled with fishing equipment, fishing rods, and gift cards to Fin and Feather (located at 10 Milford Street in Upton).

Along with the BRWA, representatives from the DCR and the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife will be along the banks of the canal to assist kids and participants at each station.

Additionally, local Trout Unlimited volunteers will be performing fly fishing cast demonstrations.

To get involved, interested families and participants are encouraged to pre-register at https://event.gg/2622-family-fun-fishing-day-2016. However, day-of registration will be accepted as well.

In addition to the help from the other organizations involved, this event was made possible through Alternative’s Community Bridging Grant. Also, donations from W. H. Webb Construction, Inc. (located at 292 Partridge Hill Road in Charlton) have been pivotal in making this event happen each year.

 Greg Barlow may be reached at [email protected].