In 2010, the United States Mint launched its America the Beautiful Quarters program, producing 25-cent pieces featuring five new back designs each year until 2021, each commemorating a national park or site. At the close of 2018, following Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Georgia, Rhode Island made its debut with a freshly minted coin honoring the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge.
This isn’t the first time Rhode Island – and the South County region in particular – has made a shiny, silver appearance. In 2001, as part of the 50 State Quarter Program, the US Mint produced the official Rhode Island quarter. It shows a vintage sailboat cruising through Narragansett Bay, shadowed by the Pell Bridge. Now, the newest addition joins the roll, memorializing another local – and national – landmark.
The Block Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1973, when the United States Coast Guard transferred 28 acres of the island; the refuge is one of six such locations in the state managed under the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The commemorative quarter depicts a black-crowned night heron in mid-flight over Cow Cove beach, the North Lighthouse visible in the background. It pays homage to the now 133 wild acres of land that act as a crucial stopping point for birds migrating along the Atlantic coast. The refuge is famous for bird watching – thanks to over 70 species of songbirds making their yearly visit – and barrier beaches.
During the ceremony to launch the coin in November, Mint Director David Ryder expressed that the quarter is not only a tribute to the refuge’s critical use as a safe haven for migratory creatures, but “a testament to what dedicated humans can do to protect our world.”