Sunday, March 20, 2016

Looking beyond the Thames for answers

Community leaders in London, Ontario, like to throw money at problems in an attempt to buy quick, expert-sourced solutions. All too often once the solution is provided, it is praised, criticized, shelved and forgotten. London leaders embark on spending sprees before first checking out the market place of ideas.

The dual problems of how best to treat the Thames River at the forks and what to do with the broken Springbank Dam are just the latest in a long string of brouhahas following this pattern. The city leaders would do better if they spent a little more time investigating what others have done.

Think of Stamford, Connecticut, and what that community has done and is continuing to do in respect to its river. In many ways, Stamford has the same stated goals as London but Stamford is taking an approach more in tune with present thinking. The Stamford approach is the one being taken by more and more communities around the world. Read the project statement reprinted below:

Formerly a polluted, derelict riverfront, Mill River Park and Greenway is now a verdant, animated civic space that mends the ecological and social fabric of downtown Stamford, Connecticut. Working closely with engineers and ecologists, the team conceived of a landscape designed to revitalize aquatic and terrestrial habitats and reduce flooding by restoring the channelized river’s edge and introducing hundreds of new native plants. The transformative effect of this park builds on ecological sustainability into social sustainability and social justice. A series of walking paths along the river reconnect neighborhoods to this vibrant landscape, granting access to the river’s edge for the first time in a century. The design provides much needed park space for active and passive recreation and a flexible “Great Lawn and Overlook” for large programmed events. A model for redefining active urban life, the park is a catalyst for residential, corporate and commercial growth and economic sustainability. 

If you are curious and want to know more, check out this link: The Plan for Mill River Park. It is interesting to note that Stamford, once it settled on the direction it wanted to follow, found a consultant to assist with realizing its dream. The community did not go it alone. Instead, the community turned to the Laurie Olin design team. Olin has been called the most significant landscape architect since Olmsted, the chap behind Central Park in New York and more.

If you would like to know more, the following video makes it clear what was accomplished in Stamford, Connecticut.

The two largest water resources management agencies in the United States, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Bureau of Reclamation, often work together today on dam removal projects. Something in the neighbourhood of a thousand dams have been removed in past twenty years in the States alone.

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