I bookmark and save unique studies that I think will be great for this blog and recently I noticed that I have a bunch on river revival, or restoration. Rivers, it seems, are something that people are drawn to, something they long for, and something they are willing to get dirty for. I mean, who doesn’t love sitting peacefully next to a rushing river? And now, rivers are coming back to a city near you.
In one New York’s largest cities, there was a river under a parking lot for nearly 100 years. Today, that river is shimmering in the sunlight after the local people and government of Yonkers worked together to bring back their river, most notably the work of the Saw Mill River Coalition. To get people excited about the possibilities the river could bring to the city, they had Columbia University design students draw out what the river could look like. Now, they are restoring the habitat of many native fish, birds, and insects as well as the American eel, a species that migrates up the river, by creating a fish ladder!
Over across the pond, in the industrial cities of England, people are seeing what can happen if you just stop dumping sewage and pollutants in to a river. The rivers were once a dumping ground for such industrial wastes before WWII. After the war, many factories closed down and the dumping decreased. People also got better at cleaning up after themselves and caring a little more about their drinking water. Researchers Vaughan and Ormerod discovered that, since 1991, the rivers in these industrial cities regained 20% of the insects, clams, and other invertebrates they once lost. Amazing what nature can do if we just let it heal!
Groundwork San Diego Chollas Creek is an example of river revival mixed with environmental justice in a highly urban area. They involve schools and the community in efforts to restore both the ecology of the creek and also the pride the local people have for their natural areas. The area is going from a degraded, concrete lined canal to a flowing green creek habitat. It is also going from a place of high crime to one of urban habitat for plants and animals as well as people.