Arrington Dixon greets Dr. Charles Burrows as Josh Burch looks on. Courtesy Susana Raab Anacostia Community Museum
On Saturday, March 28th 2015, 30 panelists representing such organizations as Groundwork Anacostia River, The Anacostia Watershed Society, The District Department of the Environment, The Federal City Council , The University of the District of Columbia, The Louisville Waterfront Development, and LA’s The City Project gathered at Thurgood Marshall Academy for a day- long symposium to address the issues of: Education & Practice, Recreation & Environmentalism, Models in Grassroots Leadership, Collaboration Techniques, Waterfront Development, and Gentrification & New Urbanism.The gathering of environmentalists, community leaders, civic leaders, educators, scholars, and DC metro area residents was the culmination of one of the driving forces of the Urban Waterways Project whose primary goal is the exploration of the various relationships between urban rivers and the people living along their banks.
This emphasis on communities… people, proved to be a re-occurring theme throughout the day’s discussion. The very nature of water, a multi-dimensional element which touches past, present, and future, up-river, down-river, tourist and resident, Alexis Goggans of DC’s Office of Planning pointed out, requires us to reconsider how we envision the nature of cities. Such visions can and should be driven by the needs of those living in areas which are the most impacted by issues surrounding the redevelopment of urban waterways and their environs. Communities must appoint themselves as stewards, owning and taking the lead on issues in their own neighborhoods. The cultivation of community ownership best takes place in an atmosphere of trust in which engaged residents, educated in the issues which impact their lives, have a sense of place. Irma Munoz of Mujeres de la Tierra describes this as a sense of integrity and who you are. It is this sense of ownership and stewardship which allows communities to recognize and embrace their possible roles in the changes taking place along their waterfronts.
An attendee speaks during one of the sessions. Courtesy Susana Raab Anacostia Community Museum
The power of residents’ ownership of such changes is reflected in the experiences of Louisville’s Waterfront Development Corporation which has recognized the importance of the inclusion of everyone from the beginning. “Build interest, engage the media … each step of the way must have things that appeal to the public… this is of interest to you.” The importance of such engagement was echoed by Baltimore Parks & People’s Lisa Schroeder who underscored the growing necessity of collaboration among the communities along urban rivers, as beleaguered cities have fewer resources to address all of the issues involved in creating and maintaining healthy, sustainable neighborhoods. If riverfronts are to be the centers of public and community life, stakeholders must take a multi-disciplinary approach, with the understanding that the traditional attitudes of “healing” communities from without doesn’t necessarily work in all situations.
Dayana Molina of The City Project listens as Raul Macias of LA’s Anahuak Soccer Association speaks during a panel on Recreation and Environmentalism Courtesy Susana Raab Anacostia Community Museum
If collaboration between stakeholders and the inclusion of all stakeholders is the key to success, both panelists and attendees understand the importance of paying attention to who is being served, and who has been denied access to urban waterfronts. The distribution of resources must reflect the communities sharing their lives along urban rivers. Polices are needed to provide a framework for change. Cultures of stewardship need to be created and maintained. The discussions which took part at the Urban Waterways Symposium should serve as the start of ongoing conversations and collaborations. The next practical step: getting people to the riverbanks.
Other images from the day.
Irma Munoz of Mujeres de la Tierra listens as Inez Robb of Baltimore’s Watershed 263 Council responds to a question during the panel on Models in Grassroots Leadership. Susana Raab Anacostia Community Museum
Alexis Goggans of DC’s Office of Planning takes part in a panel on Waterfront Development. Susana Raab Anacostia Community Museum
Former DC mayor Anthony Williams gives the keynote at the Urban Waterways Symposium. Susana Raab Anacostia Community Museum
Jim Foster of the Anacostia Watershed Society and fellow panelist Charles Burrows of the Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club, John Quail of Friends of the Chicago River, and Christina Bradley of Baltimore Parks & People take part in a discussion of Education and Environmentalism. Susana Raab Anacostia Community Museum
Robert Garcia of The City Project and Raul Macias of the Anahuak Youth Soccer Association. Susana Raab Anacostia Community Museum
Sabine O’Hara of UDC moderates a panel on Collaborative Techniques. Susana Raab Anacostia Community Museum
Urban Waterways PI Portia James converses with Dennis Chestnut of Groundwork Anacostia River. Susana Raab Anacostia Community Museum
Leslie Fields of the Sierra Club listens to one of the day’s sessions. Susana Raab Anacostia Community Museum
Panelists at the end of an exciting day of discussion. From left, Dayana Molina of The City Project, Raul Macias of Anahuak Youth Soccer Association, Leslie Fields of The Sierra Club, Camille Akeju of ACM, Dennis Chestnut of Groundwork Anacostia River, DC, Irma Munoz of Mujeres de la Tierra, Derrick Evans of Turkey Creek Community Initiatives, Vernice Miller-Travis of Skeo Solutions, Robert Garcia of The City Project, and Dan Smith of The Anacostia Watershed Society. Courtesy of The City Project
Posted by Katrina Lashley