Had Steve Insana lived, this coming Sunday would have been his 50th birthday.
But the fact that Insana is gone does not mean the work he started has stopped. If anything, it is going stronger than ever. This Sunday at 2:30 p.m. a memorial on Warwick Avenue near the Knights of Columbus Hall will be dedicated in his name.
Insana grew up in Warwick and as a boy, and later as a man, intimately knew the woods and marshes around Buckeye Brook, Warwick Pond and Mill Cove. He had a wonderful collection of arrowheads and stone tools he had found over the years. He knew from buried oyster and quahog shells where the Indians had their encampments and he could identify the fauna of the area.
But most of all, he had an attachment for the brook and its spring runs of herring and alewives. Insana saw what was happening to the brook and the fish. He saw how the brook had become a dumping ground, how pollutants leached into it from a now closed landfill and how during the winter months, the airport storm water system delivered sweet smelling glycol used to deice aircraft to its waters. He also saw the decline of the fish spawning runs.
Insana was the founder of the Buckeye Brook Coalition, a group of likeminded activists who organized brook cleanups, fought to ban the netting of herring in the brook, started an annual fish count and pressured to have the airport abate the flow of glycol into the brook.
Paul Earnshaw, president of the coalition and a close friend of Insana, said Monday that he was largely a self-education man.
“Steve had a gift. What he had was a passion that led him to learn everything that was happening around him,” he said. In particular, he said, Insana was interested in the life cycle of the fish that once crowded the brook in such numbers that they flopped on the banks.
“He understood how important they are to the ecosystem,” he said. “It was his passion to save the brook.”
On Sunday there will be an unveiling of the memorial plaque and a dedication prayer delivered by Father Robert Marciano, pastor of St. Kevin Church.
As Insana would have wanted it, the work of the coalition hasn’t slowed.
Earnshaw reported that the group’s 11th annual fish count started Monday with veteran volunteers.
The coalition will conduct training sessions for those wanting to assist on Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. and again on March 26 from 5 to 6 p.m. at the K of C parking lot near the brook. Training takes about 10 minutes. Assisting will be representatives from Rhode Island Fish and Wildlife.
Insana died on Aug. 30, 2009.