As waterways and their environs undergo the process of being restored and deemed valuable in the eyes of a variety of stakeholders, the multitude of their “values” has become apparent as residents and other interested parties seek to define, solidify, and justify their connections and right to these natural resources. How do we utilize them? What roles can the natural world play in our lives? This issue explores education along waterways. Education can be defined as “the process of giving or receiving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.” It can also be defined as “an enlightening experience”. As communities look to a future in which equitable access to reclaimed natural resources is one of the foundational pieces to healthy, sustainable communities what kind of educational experience is owed the people living along our urban waterways? Do either of the above definitions suit the task before us or is it a combination of the two?
The contributors of this issue present a variety of models for how our natural resources can be used as an integral part of the transmission of skills and values needed to ensure informed civic engagement in the variety of issues facing communities as they work to create a sense of belonging to and equal access to their natural world. UW Newsletter 9
Living Classrooms “Fresh Start” program participants helping construct the boardwalk over the marsh on Heritage Island. Lee Cain
This 8th issue focuses on the value and practice of community collaboration. Hyon Rah points to a growing realization among practitioners tackling issues of development along waterways that an integrated approach driven by community input and needs is means to sustainable success. Lee Cain highlights how the community’s role in building and maintaining the natural space of Kingman Island in DC can create a sense of stewardship and connection to place, while providing a path for future personal and civic development. ArtReach’s Melissa Green demonstrates the various ways communities can and want to be engaged in conversations regarding the health of their neighborhoods and natural world through art. The City Project provides a list of best practices through a tracing of the history of community driven collaborations aimed at park access and health equity in LA, while the Waterfront Development Corporation in Louisville serves as a case study of successful community engagement that has lasted for over thirty years, as the citizens of Louisville have embraced the various stages of the city’s front lawn which is entering its fourth stage. Urban Waterways Newsletter 8
This issue was inspired by the events in the city of Flint and the rude realization for many that Flint was not the first, and will not be the last, community to face the daily realities of an insecure water supply. Our contributors in DC, Los Angeles, and Flint explore some of the critical issues facing urban waterways and their communities. urban-waterways-newsletter-issue-7
This issue highlights the steps residents in communities along urban waterways have taken toward the creation of economies which use social, environmental, and economic factors as measurements of success. Urban Waterways Newsletter Issue 5
Rising 7th graders at Hart Middle School gathered with family and friends in ACM’s program room to give their first presentations as part of Urban Waterways’ Urban Ecology Engagement initiative. The middle schoolers (cohort2.0) have just completed a six-week summer program made possible by the collaborative efforts of UPO’s P.O.W.E.R program, the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. The community stewardship initiative follows students from 7th through 12th grades and engages them in the collection of biological, chemical, and habitat data from five tributaries of the Anacostia River, the development of a database, the exploration of the impact of pollution on the watershed and the development of recommendations and possible solutions.
The event started with several members of the previous cohort (cohort 1.0) who are in the final preparations for the start of their freshman year at college. Students will be attending such schools as The University of Pittsburgh, Trinity University, Capitol Technology University, and Virginia State University to pursue degrees in Mechanical Engineering, Telecommunication Engineering, Astrophysics, Childhood Education, and Electrical Engineering.
Members of the new cohort then stepped forward to present their experiences over the last six weeks. Unlike some of their friends who spent their days swimming or playing basketball, the middle schoolers spent part of their time in classrooms on the campus of Bowie State University. A significant part of their time was spent pushing their boundaries in the exploration of the Anacostia Watershed with boat rides on the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and field trips to Sandy Spring, MD – a watershed headwater site and a major Underground Railroad depot, Washington Aqueduct, which provides the drinking water for DC, some surrounding counties and DC Water’s Blue Plains Wastewater treatment plant. In their presentations, students provided definitions of a watershed, shared their favorite experiences from the field trips, and discussed future career goals. Many were impressed by the boat trips and the wildlife they saw in and along the river. Others were also struck by the amount of pollution they saw floating in the water. A major question asked by many of the presenters was how can the water be cleaned and the watershed made safer. Many students, impressed by their tour of Blue Palins, expressed an interest in pursuing careers in wastewater treatment by obtaining more information on the subject.
Students will continue their exploration of the Anacostia watershed as the school year continues through a variety of Saturday programming.
This forum aims to bring residents together to explore the traditional image of environmentalists, the assumptions made about communities of color in regards to environmental and sustainability issues, and the truth behind such prejudgments. Do minorities feel represented? Is there a lack of trust between traditional environmentalists and communities of color? How do communities define environmentalism and their relationships to urban waterways? What steps have been taken to make the table more inclusive? What are the possible social and political consequences of such inclusion?
Originally published in the summer of 2013, this first issue of the Urban Waterways newsletter introduces the reader to the various communities and waterways which make up our network from the perspectives of those who are playing a role in their revitalization. Urban Waterways Newsletter Issue 1
Issue 2 Water and Faith
This issue explores our obligation to the natural world through the lens of our spiritual beliefs. Do we have dominion, or are we meant to be stewards? How can faith communities who have had a role as the leading moral forces in our communities make their environmental messages blend seamlessly into their moral teachings? Are faith communities an under-tapped source of authority in the efforts to “green” our communities? FinalUW Newsletter
Issue 3 Arts Along the Waterfront
In the third issue of the Urban Waterways project newsletter, we explore the impact of the Arts on the spirit of neighborhoods along urban waterways. The Arts have long reflected artists’ visions of the communities in which they play a role. Inversely, these interpretations are informed by the world around them, and the natural world, in its various forms, can often be an important source of inspiration. What are the practical applications of the relationships between Art, artists, and the communities in which they live? Urban Waterways Newsletter Issue 3
Issue 4 Community Engagement Along Waterfronts
This issue explores the importance of community engagement in the creation of healthy, self-sustaining and equitable waterfront communities. Urban Waterways Newsletter Issue 4
On Saturday May 9, 2015, Andrew Lightman, Managing Editor of Capital Community News led a discussion of the socio-economic changes facing neighborhoods east of the River with Arrington Dixon, Chairman of the Anacostia Coordinating Council; Shareema Houston, Chair of Historic Anacostia Preservation Society; author and journalist, John Muller; Graylin W. Presbury, President of Fairlawn’s Citizens Association; the city’s new Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity, Courtney Snowden and Christina Plerhoples Stacy of the Urban Institute.
The discussion began with various definitions of “gentrification” which many on the panel agreed is one of several terms used to describe the shift in a community’s population from a lower socio-economic group to a higher one that often, but not always, falls along racial lines. Panelist definitions also acknowledged the multiple layers that form a part of the process. Gentrifiers and community members are not always separated by race. Additionally, the built environment of various neighborhoods, varying rates of home ownership, and the rationale behind city policies all play a role in determining the “winners” and “losers” in community change.
The transformation of a community usually involves the conflicting visons of many. Historic Anacostia Preservation Society Chair Shareema Houston pointed out that visions of transformation can fall along racial and socio-economic lines that do not take into account the spirit of communities already present. Arrington Dixon asserted engaging the community is essential in providing residents with the tools and education needed to make decisions that will benefit them in the face of community transformation. Courtney Snowden echoed his assertion by pointing out, “Having $220,000.00 dangled in front of you can be a dangerous thing. Communities need to be educated on what they’re being asked to decide upon.”
Arrington Dixon’s emphasis on the creation of an educated, engaged community whose residents are ready to tap into their capacity, knowledge and experience to make the decisions that will best benefit them is only a part of an approach that can mitigate the possible negative effects of gentrification. If the community is to be at the table with developers and respected when decisions are made about its future, Houston stressed, city officials should help it achieve its goals. Such a role on the part of city government would call for a change in the tendency, according to Andrew Lightman, of the city to “give away” property to developers. Deputy Mayor Snowden saw room for a new approach. As a city, DC is ready to negotiate from a place of strength, and developers and communities need to be in accord. The next steps will involve galvanizing all the resources available in communities in order to be more innovative and not falling into the trap of not realizing some of the current problems stem from solutions from the past. Dixon was also optimistic, highlighting the importance of being on time. For him, the community is ready. The critical step is to harness its potential, utilizing its historic value and the Anacostia River and park as a source of pride and spirit which can be transformed into job opportunities which will, in turn, create more options and economic ladders, allowing residents to make decisions that will best impact them and the fabric of the larger community.
The audience was made up of a large contingent of ward 7 and 8 residents whose questions reflected a concern regarding the city government’s role in seemingly giving away not only property but also control over the futures of neighborhoods and an apparent lack of concern in regards to derelict city property. Other residents pointed to the Anacostia River as an important resource that can be used as an economic and unifying source for city residents. Finally, some residents were curious about any current or pending comprehensive plans for development in wards 7 and 8. Resident enquiries echoed many panelists concerns involving the need for more community engagement and stronger willingness on the part of city officials to advocate on behalf of residents in negotiations with developers.