Around the Valley: Taste of Mardi Gras, food truck feedback


News and briefs from the Blackstone Valley

State launches new Open Beds website

Rhode Island has joined a growing list of states that are using online tracking systems to help consumers, caregivers and providers access mental health and substance use treatment services for patients who need them.

Launched last year by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals, the state’s website helps users identify providers and the types of inpatient services they offer and determine if needed beds are available.

By going to the website, users can search by provider or bed type and see timely information on how many beds are available, how many beds are filled, and how many individuals, if any, are waiting for particular types of beds. Providers are asked to update their information as often as needed to keep it current.

Demand for these services was rising as a result of the opioid epidemic, and demand rose again last year as the COVID-19 pandemic added to the number of individuals seeking help for mental health and substance use conditions.

BHDDH developed the website with help from a grant from the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.

DEM seeks feedback on food trucks in state parks

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Division of Parks and Recreation is conducting an online survey to gather public input on food trucks at Rhode Island State Parks.

The department is seeking feedback from park-goers to better understand their preferences in order to enhance and expand concession options at state parks. Those participating in the survey are being asked to share their preferences regarding the type of food, locations, and other details that will help improve the food choices available to state park visitors.

In 2020 DEM launched the state park food truck program, which enables food trucks to rent daily spaces in a variety of state parks. Last year, 16 food trucks offered a variety of local and specialty fare including tacos, burgers, seafood, barbecue, pizza, frozen beverages, specialty coffee, cupcakes, ice cream and more.

The survey only takes a few minutes to complete and is available at the following link:

Food truck operators interested in joining the state park food truck program may contact for more information.

Taste of Mardi Gras

In lieu of their traditional Mardi Gras celebration, St. Ann Arts & Cultural Center and the Northern Rhode Island Council of the Arts will hold “Taste of Mardi Gras 2021,” at Chello’s Hometown Bar & Grill in Woonsocket all day on Sunday, Feb. 21.

The restaurant’s menu will include Mardi Gras- related specials and patrons can have 20 percent of their check’s value donated to the organization by presenting a certificate. Zydeco music will be played and everyone who participates will be entered into a free drawing for several prizes.

St. Ann, located on Cumberland Street in Woonsocket, is a former church now operated as a non-profit, which holds the largest collection of fresco paintings in North America.

NRICA is a volunteer organization that promotes arts and culture in Northern Rhode Island and puts on arts-related events, such as the annual Mardi Gras celebration.

To show support for the organizations, print the certificate below and present it when paying for your dine-in or take-out meal.

DEM, URI to host webinar on spotted lanternfly

The Department of Environmental Management, in partnership with the University of Rhode Island, is hosting a webinar this month to provide information about the spotted lanternfly, an exotic pest that targets various plants and trees.

Native to China, the spotted lanternfly is an invasive plant-hopper that is currently infesting portions of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014 and has quickly spread through surrounding states. It is anticipated that the pest may be introduced into Rhode Island within the next few years. This invasive species targets “Tree of Heaven” plants, grapes, hops, fruit trees, and various hardwood trees including walnut and maple, impacting environmental and economic resources.

The virtual informational session is being held to help the transportation and trucking industries, landscapers, local growers, vineyards and wineries, stone and outdoor commodity industry, environmental organizations and others prepare for and respond to this invasive pest, should it be detected in Rhode Island. The 90-minute presentation will include historical and current information on spotted lanternfly, pest identification, risks and expected impacts to Rhode Island, prevention and treatment options, and resources. Staff from DEM’s Division of Agriculture and URI will be participating in the webinar and available for questions and discussion.

The webinar, entitled “Spotted Lanternfly: What You Need to Know to Prepare for This Invasive Pest In Rhode Island,” will be offered as follows:

Tuesday, Feb. 23: 1 – 2:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 24: 1:30 – 3 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 25: 10 – 11:30 a.m.

Registration is required to receive a link to the webinar. To RSVP, and for questions about the presentation or spotted lanternfly, contact Cynthia Kwolek in DEM’s Division of Agriculture via email at, or at 401-949-1770.

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