Garrison Creek, Now Buried
Every time it used to rain in Toronto, the combined sewer system would overflow into Lake Ontario and all of the beaches would have to be closed. The engineers as is their wont, proposed concrete: a giant interceptor pipe big enough to drive a bus through, that could hold all the water until it could be processed in the sewage treatment plants.
Toronto architects James Brown and Kim Storey had a different idea:
They proposed digging up the old buried streams and wetlands and putting them back to work. " Existing natural watersheds, like the Garrison Watershed, can be used as sites for stormwater management pond systems. Not only can these connected pond systems serve to collect, treat and re-use stormwater locally, they can also act as a catalyst in the creation of a series of connected open spaces knitting both an urban and a green infrastructure back to the waterfront of Lake Ontario."
They were laughed at. The engineers built their pipe, and pretty plaques were set in the ground marking out Garrison Creek and reminding everyone what might have been. But now those quaint ideas of restoring watersheds and abandoning concrete are running the engineers out of town all over the world.
Rewiring the City in the Bronx
In Brook Park in the Bronx, a long-buried stream is being dug up. Nick Juravich writes in the New York Moon:
Until the last decades of the nineteenth century, the Mill Brook ran from the hills around what is now Gates Place through the South Bronx, paralleling Brook Avenue before emptying into the Bronx Kill. Residents from the period recalled fishing and "bobbing for eels" (a technique that employs a bob, or weighted circle of bait, and is not at all like bobbing for apples) in the brook to WPA researchers in the 1930s, as well as watching the local fire department fill their tanks from the stream. However, as development boomed in the area, the Brook was first culverted and then filled altogether. City blocks were gridded atop the former channel, and the stream was consigned to memory.
But Juravich makes the important point that streams don't just go away.
A waterway cannot be wholly eliminated, and any attempt to do so brings repercussions. In the 100-plus years since it was buried, the Mill Brook has haunted the South Bronx, flooding basements along its former route.
Now a small portion is being restored by volunteers, stocked with local flora and fauna, and used for environmental education.
Found via Planetizen
Digging Up Edmunston
Lisa Rain writes in the Washington Post about a small town near Washington that is tearing up their streets:
In a few weeks, workers will start ripping up Edmonston's main road and replacing it with an environmentally friendly street of rain gardens, porous brick and a drought-resistant tree canopy designed to shade the concrete, filter rainwater before it flows into the river and put people to work...
The project, to be completed in six months if construction goes as planned, will usher in dramatic changes. Thirty maple, elm, sycamore and oak trees will line the street, and energy-efficient streetlights will be powered by wind. The street will be eight feet narrower to reduce paved surfaces, with landscaped "bump-outs" filled with moisture-loving plants to absorb and filter stormwater. The sidewalks will be laid with permeable concrete blocks to absorb the residue of daily life. And a bike path will encourage people to get out of their cars.
As one resident noted: "Even a working-class community can glom on to being a little bit aware of the environment." More in the Washington Post