Call for a Coastal Commons
A Photo Essay By Terry Doss, Hudson River Bioregion Team Leader
Not too recently in history, our local waterways were often thought of as open sewer
…and our urban waterfronts as dumps.
Signs of this disregard are still present today – access to our urban waterfronts is limited, areas are in disrepair, and overgrowth of invasive plants even block our views of the water.
Often, the only signs that we are near the waterfront are the signs we put in place.
There are signs that remind us that the area was once natural…..
…and that a river once ran through it.
Too often, our communities are completely separated from the waterfront by highways and walls.
Non-water dependent uses and fences block us from what should be a public open space.
At times, it’s almost as if we are trying to separate our built environment from the natural environment.
Where there are urban waterfront parks, too often they are developed to meet some regulatory requirement, and do not provide any real access, views, or interaction with what should be the public’s resource.
Or they are designed with limited views or chances for interaction with the waterfront.
Even while waiting in line to board a boat, the urban waterfront is designed in such a way that people more often turn their back to the water rather than engage.
This lack of access and interaction along our urban waterfronts causes people to only experience the built environment of the city.
We need urban waterfronts that allow us to engage,
offer multiple ways to participate with the land and water,
provide access to the water,
create open space for the surrounding communities,
And utilize living shorelines where possible.
Our urban waterfronts are our most valuable open space and should be accessible and preserved.
In the immortal words of Adlai Stevenson, July 9, 1965: “We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil; all committed, for our safety, to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work and the love we give our fragile craft.”