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Bill aims to make Blackstone River national park

The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, recognized as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, is one step closer to being made a national historic park.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, recognized as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, is one step closer to being made a national historic park.

Members of Congress from Rhode Island and Massachusetts on Thursday introduced legislation that would give park status to the Old Slater Mill and nearby mill towns. The Slater Mill was America's first successful textile mill and helped usher in the Industrial Revolution.

The Blackstone River runs from Worcester, Mass., to Providence, and its waters powered the mill, in Pawtucket. The corridor, which stretches nearly 50 miles, includes 24 cities and towns.

The new designation would enhance the historic area's standing while making it eligible for consistent federal funding.

In a joint statement, U.S. senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, and John Kerry and Scott Brown, of Massachusetts, said park status also would preserve the area's natural and cultural features while bolstering tourism. The four are co-sponsors of the bill in the Senate.

"This new national park would provide opportunities for work, opportunities for recreation, and it will be a way to forever memorialize the history of this unique national treasure," Reed said in the statement.

A version of the legislation also was introduced in the House on Thursday. U.S. Reps. David Cicilline and Jim Langevin, of Rhode Island, and Richard Neal and James McGovern, of Massachusetts, are co-sponsors.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar toured the heritage corridor in August and said then that he would support making it a national historic park. The final decision is up to Congress.

The area was designated a National Heritage Corridor in 1986.