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While nearby beaches offer sun and waterfront fun, another local attraction gives to some a welcome change from oceanside lounging to exploring wooded forests, biking, hiking and sightseeing off-the-beaten path.

Although not so secluded, tourists and residents alike — regardless of weather — find enjoyment on the William C. O’Neill Bike Path. Sometimes called the South County Bike Path or to locals just “the bike path.”

However, it’s far more than just a cycling route.

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Summer is a time of celebration. It marks the end of another school year, brings with it long-awaited vacations and the sunny weather brightens people’s spirits. This summer also marks the end of more than a year of isolation, uncertainty and hardship. If there was ever a time worthy of celebration, summer 2021 is it.

Rhode Island is rich with the spirit of summertime — South County truly comes alive as people from all over the country are called back to the shores of the Ocean State to savor time in the sun with their loved ones. Now more than ever, “there is excitement to get together with friends and family and resume activities that were missed,” said Kristin Urbach, Executive Director of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce.

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If you are looking for a local outing that takes in some sun while relaxing along bayside cliffs with winds off the Atlantic Ocean — and offering a small mix of history in a museum tour — Beavertail Lighthouse ranks at the top of the list.

It is an iconic lighthouse — one of the 21 still found in Rhode Island. The quaint old structure has a claim to fame as the third oldest in the United States. Remnants can even be found of the original 1749 light that guided mariners as they approached the Beavertail peninsula in on Jamestown.

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On a cold morning in late April, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Maureen Durkin watches as a team of four co-workers test their skills at rapidly building a wire mesh “exclosure” on Moonstone Beach in South Kingstown. The six-foot, circular structure is designed to be put around a piping plover nest to allow the sand-colored birds access to their eggs while keeping predators away.

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Steve Burke of Wakefield has been keeping bees for 30 years and serves on the board of directors and is the secretary for the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association (RIBA). Along with his own hives, he also devotes his time to relocating honeybees from places like homes and playgrounds to save them from extermination.

Partners Sara Michaud and Sherri Matheu of Charlestown are in their seventh season of beekeeping. They value seeing their colonies grow and thrive as well as the constant opportunities to learn from the small creatures.

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When Rhode Islanders visit the coastal areas of South County and discover an oil sheen on the water, a fish kill, a barrier to public access to the shoreline, a large concentration of plastic debris, or any number of other concerns, one of the first people they should turn to is Dave Prescott. The CoastKeeper for Save the Bay, Prescott is the eyes and ears of the Ocean State’s south coast and Little Narragansett Bay, a watchdog for water quality, and a voice for those seeking to draw attention to environmental issues in the region.

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When buying an old house, you also purchase a slice of history.

That includes connections to a past era, people who once lived there, unique features and special events as well as the care — or lack of it — for the structure itself.

Love for history of both lore and maintenance binds caring owners of old homes to a dedication to preservation and enjoyment today​. They like living in part of a bygone time. It excites and interests them, the owners say, by having one foot in the past and another in the 21st Century.

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Old homes, especially around seacoasts, can take a beating from weather, decay and neglect. There are various steps homeowners can take to protect their investment and preserve the history in what stands on many country lanes, oceanfront roads, and village streets.

 “All homeowners like these should keep a good Rolodex with the names and numbers at their fingertips of the various contractors they may need. It is invaluable, “ said Jeff Sweenor, owner of Sweenor Builders and Wakefield historic home renovation contractor frequently featured on the “This Old House” television series.

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By simply adding a few Rhode Island native plants to your garden, you can play a part in preserving and prospering vital members of the ecosystem. Pollinators — which include bees, birds and butterflies, among many others — spend their days buzzing and flitting from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another to transfer life-producing pollen. If you think back to your elementary science class you will remember how pollinators, plants and people are vitally connected in our ecosystem. We need them and they need us.

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On a recent Saturday, a handful of people gathered for a lesson on how to care for wool and cashmere clothing. In a light-filled room, Reed McLaren led a demonstration on how to properly groom sweaters. As she spoke, she stretched a sweater out on a table and began combing the material (softly and in one direction), sharing all sorts of knowledge and pro tips as she went. It almost felt like she was peering over my shoulder, watching me work the red sweater laid out on the desk before me. But instead she was using Zoom to peer through a computer screen and watch a dozen or so people in their own homes, sweaters stretched before them as they, too, practiced grooming.

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Imagine walking into a new exhibit at the South County Museum that lists as many local commercial fishermen as can be identified — past and present — and features stories of notable fishing families, artifacts of the fishing industry, a parade of historic photographs on large video screens, and even an oral history booth where present-day fishermen and their families can tell their stories.

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The histories of the United States Navy and Southern New England are ones that are often intertwined, especially when it comes to submarines. Along with Quonset Point in North Kingstown, the site of an Electric Boat campus where portions of the Columbia-class and Virginia-class submarines are being built, a lot of the research and development that goes into these powerful vessels is done in Newport at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC).

Founded in 1869 as the US Naval Torpedo Center, NUWC has evolved over the years to keep the Navy to develop, test, engineer and support the Navy’s submarines, considered by many to be the backbone of the Navy.

Among those putting in the work to ensure the success and capability of these vessels are a plethora of South County residents. South County Life spoke with five such employees about the work they do for the Navy, their career journey that took them to NUWC and the STEM education they received that got them to where they are today.

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In each of us, goes an old adage, is a book. The stories of our lives can offer interpretations and understandings of the world, a piece of advice, or simply just catharsis.

As authors, we weave our understandings and experiences into narratives. They show up in fiction, non-fiction, poetry and imagery, to name a few places. Packaging them as hardcover or softcover books, online ebooks, audiobooks or even CDs and DVDs can bring those narratives to life.

“It is a labor of love,” said Michael Grossman, owner of Ebook Bakery in South Kingstown and advisor to many self-publishing authors. “I’m in publishing because I love words. We do it because we love it. Publishing these works brings people into our lives. It’s exciting.”

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Jayne Merner Senecal says there is a stigma surrounding farming and working with one’s hands, a belief that labor-intensive careers shouldn’t be revered as much as white-collar jobs. Senecal takes issue with that belief, and as the owner of Earth Care Farm in Charlestown, works to convince others of the value of farm work.