CLF Urges Protection of Morley Field 

Amid Environmental Justice Concerns, State Defers Decision to Convert Park into Parking Lot

Rhode Island's state house

Rhode Island State House. Photo: Tupungato via Shutterstock

June 06, 2024 (PAWTUCKET, RI) – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has asked the National Park Service (NPS) for further guidance as it considers the decision to convert Morley Field, emphasizing the significance of environmental justice in this case. Despite lacking the necessary approvals, the City of Pawtucket has shut down Morley Field, a crucial 5-acre park in the Woodlawn neighborhood, intending to transform it into a parking lot for a nearby warehouse. Conservation Law Foundation released the following statement in response. 

“Morley Field is an essential green space for the Woodlawn community, and its closure and neglect are unacceptable,” said Darrèll Brown, Rhode Island Vice President at Conservation Law Foundation. “The state’s decision to defer its recommendation regarding Morley Field acknowledges the critical role of environmental justice in protecting community resources. We urge the Department of Environmental Management and the National Park Service to fight for environmental justice by protecting Morley Field for the benefit of the community, not industry.” 

Morley Field, the only park within a 10-minute walk for most residents and the sole public access to the Moshassuck River, has been a critical recreational area since the 1970s. The City’s plan to convert this park into a parking lot has deprived the community of a vital recreational space, highlighting a troubling pattern of environmental injustice, especially in a low-income neighborhood predominantly inhabited by people of color. This situation underscores the urgent need for an Environmental Justice Act in Rhode Island to ensure that marginalized communities have equitable access to green spaces and are protected from environmentally harmful decisions. 

In May, CLF sent a letter to NPS and DEM urging both agencies to deny Pawtucket’s application to convert Morley Field. The full letter can be found here. 

CLF experts are available for further comment.