Environmental trailblazers to be honored Friday


Sure, there aren’t any mountains in Rhode Island, but that doesn’t mean Narragansett can’t be the home of a chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

What started in the White Mountains of New Hampshire sometime in the 1930s has now sprouted into chapters throughout New England, New York, Delaware, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. But it’s the local chapter in Narragansett that’s in the spotlight this week.

Tomorrow evening, the Environmental Council of Rhode Island will recognize the Narragansett Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club at their 13th Annual John H. Chafee Conservation Leadership Honors awards ceremony.

Two of the club’s members, Warwick’s Henry and Martha Cruciani, have served as leaders and members of the club for 25 years. With their help, the Appalachian Mountain Club has helped to blaze trails, build bridges and preserve open space across the state.

“The original goal of the group was to use the environment wisely,” explained Martha.

Today, the group helps with the Appalachian Mountains, but they also organize local activities. Martha said some of those activities, which include projects like bridge building and outdoor cleanups, have gathered more than 70 volunteers.

Tomorrow evening, the club will be recognized alongside two other groups for their outstanding conservation projects and programs, specifically trail maintenance and construction. The group works mainly in Arcadia, a large area of land in the southwestern corner of the state. There, they mark trees for hikers, clear trails and maintain the grounds.

Federal funds that stem from the gas tax pay for materials for their construction projects, but all of the labor is donated. Henry said the group usually spends a few hundred dollars on each project. A wooden bridge they built several years ago cost them $1,200, and Henry cut all of the wood in his workshop. After numbering and lettering each piece, he transported them to the bridge’s site, and helped to construct the bridge by hand.

The John H. Chafee Conservation Leadership Honors are presented to organizations that have “completed outstanding conservation projects in Rhode Island.” One organization will take home the leadership award, and three others, including the Appalachian Mountain Club, will be recognized for their conservation projects. The awards commemorate the late Senator John Chafee and his efforts and passion for conservation and the natural world. Last year, the Kids First program that brings locally grown produce to schools received the top honors. The Arpin Group, Wood-Pawcatuck Association and Shalom Housing were also honored.

Gregg Garrett of Environmental Council of Rhode Island said they chose to honor the Appalachian Mountian Club this year for their “tremendous amount of work on trails across the state.”

Henry and Martha said it is exciting to be recognized for the ongoing work they and the club have been a part of. Although this is their first John H. Chafee award, the Crucianis aren’t strangers to the spotlight. In 1997, the Appalachian Mountain Club recognized them as “Appie of the Year,” a title they’re both proud of. The award is presented annually to the person, or people in the case of the Crucianis, who exemplify the mission of the club.

Tomorrow night they will present a slideshow of images from various projects the Appalachian Mountain Club has worked on throughout the years. One photo, dating back to the 1930s when the club was started, shows women wearing dresses on an outdoor trail.

“We’ve been around for a long time,” said Martha of the club.

In addition to their work in Arcadia, the club also works on projects in southern Rhode Island, the Blackstone Valley and Burlingame. They also promote other activities like biking, hiking, kayaking, canoeing and climbing.

Martha said the club is always looking for volunteers and new members.

Learn more at www.amcnarragansett.org


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