CHARLESTOWN — Depicting a black-crowned night heron in flight above Cow Cove beach, a new quarter featuring the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge was launched Thursday at the Kettle Pond Visitor Center, in a ceremony that was live-streamed to Block Island. Charles Vandemoer, project leader for Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuges, was master of ceremonies.
David Ryder, director of the United States Mint, was joined by state Sen. Dennis Algiere, R-Westerly, and Rep. Blake Filippi, R- Block Island; Narragansett Tribal Elder Robin Spears; Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit; and Jim Kurth, deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There was also a sizable audience of excited coin collectors.
Chariho students had leading roles in the ceremony, and Humanities Specialist Dana Hall said the students were thrilled to participate.
“It’s such an important event,” she said. “To be part of the ceremony for a coin, they called on Chariho, and it’s such an honor.”
Charlestown Boy Scout Troop 15 and Eagle Scout Cody Clarkin opened the event with the presentation of colors and the Pledge of Allegiance. Members of Chariho High School Vocal Select sang the national anthem and “America the Beautiful,” and students from John Labriola’s Grade 7 and 8 science classes at the middle school presented background information on the elements of the coin’s design.
Labriola introduced the students.
“We’d like to share some information about the three images that are on the coin,” he said. “First up, we have Emily and Nathan Ballard who are going to speak to you about the night heron, then we have Aiden Pepperd and Virginia Keister, who are going to speak about the natural history of Block Island and finally, we have Alexis Cole and Hudson Juenger, who will share some information about the lighthouse.”
Speaking on behalf of Gov. Gina Raimondo, Coit said: “It is thrilling that the U.S. Mint’s America the Beautiful Quarters Program includes the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge. It is now placed alongside Gettysburg and Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore, and I think it is an iconic and majestic place for Rhode Islanders.”
The Block Island quarter is 45th to be released in the Mint’s America the Beautiful series, and Ryder said it was the final coin in a series of five released in 2018.
“Eight years ago, the U.S. Mint began issuing quarters featuring designs depicting forest, parks and other national sites as part of our America the Beautiful Quarters Program,” Ryder said. “Each year, we issue five new designs on the quarter reverse, each one honoring a different state or U.S. territory. These quarters connect America through coins to our most treasured places.”
Algiere, senior vice president at Washington Trust, said his bank will distribute the quarters.
“We are involved in activities on Block Island and here at Kettle Pond,” he said. “We are a South County bank. We’re very happy to see that the mint recognized the Block Island refuge…As an avid coin collector, I am delighted that they chose Block Island.”
Filippi, a resident of Block Island, said the design of the coin reinforced his gratitude for such an unspoiled place.
“Sometimes, we don’t know what we have when we see it every day and when we experience it every day, and when we have the national mint recognize Block Island, I think it reminds us of what a special place we have in Rhode Island,” he said.
Boston artist Chris Costello, who has designed several quarters, said the inspiration for his latest coin came from a night heron he encountered while visiting Block Island.
“The image that is on the quarter is literally an image that I saw when I got out of my car to take pictures,” he said. “I was looking towards the North Lighthouse, on a beautiful winter day, as a matter of fact, and I saw an actual heron fly over towards the pond. It was just a beautiful sight and that’s pretty much the foundation of the design.”