Thursday, July 14, 2011
Arroyo Lover on the River Road
I haven't posted here recently because for the past few weeks, the Arroyo Lover has been on the road to her native Ohio and what a treasure trove of watershed restoration and revitalization activity it's been!
The photo above is actually of Mill Creek, a major tributary of the Mahoning (meaning Salt Licks) River, deemed by the USACE as one of America's five most polluted rivers due to a century of steel mill and manufacturing toxin dumping into its waterways.
From listening to the Cleveland Orchestra perform at Blossom Music Center within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to exploring the Upper Cuyahoga river towns of Aurora and Hudson, it was a delight to see the river so healthy.
Finally, it was time for a stop in my old college town, Kent, Ohio, where the city undertook a $5 million dam removal/river restoration project completed about 5 years ago. And look at what a terrific achievement it is - a free flowing river once again supported by a beautiful waterfall, riverwalk, and direct access to the river. Home to the Davey Tree Company, Kent is the original 'Tree City,' making the woodsy river stroll cool and breezy. The day of my visit, a few young fishermen were fly fishing along its shore.
This area of the river is also popular with kayakers and Kent State University students run a canoe livery on weekends based out of Tannery Park. Most exciting of all is Kent's planned natural whitewater park along this section of the river. Kent City Manager Dave Ruller graciously shared with me the conceptual design plan for the whitewater park. Yes, the river only reaches a maximum of 1100 cfs - not Class 3 or Class 4 rapids, but definitely a fast enough flow for some serious water fun. It's an exciting project that will create a terrific water trail through the middle of this college town. Wouldn't it be great to have something like that on the Los Angeles River, too?
This trip certainly offered a different perspective to my usual work in the Greater Los Angeles area, where water shortage and channelized waterways are the norm. Strategically located at the heart of the top of two major watersheds, the Cuyahoga (which flows north) and the Mahoning (which flows southeast), Northeast Ohio has plenty of water and is one of the few non-water stressed regions in our country. The environmental ethic is very strong here as well, because intuitively the people who live in this region know that trash interferes with the food chain. (Agriculture is still the number one 'industry' in Ohio). Even the former Mayor of Struthers, now Youngstown State University's Urban Studies Professor and Mahoning River Restoration collaborator, lamented his inability while on city council to get the area designated a watershed district!
This eastern navigable rivers visit was definitely a Huck Finn type of adventure with my Ohio river brothers and sisters. What an inspiration for those days when achieving true integrated urban river restoration seems an impossible dream!