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RI Coastal Resources Management Council preserve, protect, develop, and restore coastal resources for all Rhode Islanders

CRMC, partners create educational marine plastic debris exhibit

March 1, 2021, PROVIDENCE – They old adage states that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but for Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC)’s Danni Goulet it’s also a learning tool – to remind people that their trash doesn’t magically disappear once it’s thrown away.

Goulet, CRMC’s marine infrastructure coordinator, is transforming some of the trash and debris collected from the dredging of Waterplace Park and adjacent section of the river into a traveling educational art installation. It will be a visual reminder that things we toss on the ground or even in trash cans don’t go away, and can end up in the water, and find their way into the river and the ocean.

Last winter when the CRMC and its partners - the City of Providence, the Providence Foundation, project manager The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island, and the 195 Commission – dredged Waterplace Park and part of the river from the Francis Street bridge next to the Providence Place Mall to the Crawford Street Bridge, it got more than the sand it sucked off the bottom.

In addition to dredging approximately 20,000 cubic yards of material from the river basin bottom, contractor J.F. Brennan, Inc. retrieved 13 scooters, countless bicycles and parts, clothing and shoes, and enough garbage and debris to fill a 30-yard Dumpster.

“That trash cost the dredge project an additional $400,000 in time and equipment,” Goulet said. “We want this installation to not only remind people of where their trash can wind up, but that there are real costs in addition to the environmental costs.”

Goulet wanted this experience to be a “teachable moment” for Rhode Islanders. He dried out the plastic debris and garbage in a City of Providence-owned warehouse space. TNC put out a call for artists, and The Steel Yard responded. With Goulet’s design vision, local welders-in-training, existing project partners and new partners (the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island Sea Grant, The Avenue Concept, and Rhode Island Waterfront Events) are breathing life into the piece of traveling art.

The installation is constructed on a standard landscaping trailer, and is open to the air. Pieces of artfully welded water and marine life will be interspersed with plastic debris and sand from the dredge project mixed inside a plexiglass frame. More debris in the form of ropes and netting will be woven together with other trash to form the open roof of the structure. The trailer will have a doorway and a ramp to make it ADA compliant.

“This project has grown into so much more than a simple dredging of the basin and part of the river,” said CRMC Chair Jennifer Cervenka. “Danni has seized the opportunity presented by the complications from the debris in the river, and turned it into what will be a positive educational experience for all who see it. We congratulate him on his work and determination.”
In addition to the dredging, the project also includes the construction of a settling basin in upstream of the mall, Goulet said. This basin will catch sediment before it reaches Waterplace Park, and will also be constructed so that local artists can showcase their coastal-themed art on it.

“We want there to be a space for art installations, as well as a place to fish and walk out,” Goulet said. “This is to extend the life of the dredging already done.” The platform will also serve as a staging area for the excavation during construction, though the long-term purpose is a more recreational one.

The project partners hope to conduct a Phase II of the dredging project, starting from Crawford Street and continuing to the Point Street Bridge, though funding still needs to be secured. For more information on the Waterplace Park and river dredging project, go to

Some of the debris removed during the dredging project

Welders work on assembling the frame of the exhibit

Artists/welders work on a piece of the exhibit’s frame

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