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This paper explores how a specific project (creek restoration planning) in a particular place (Syracuse, NY) challenged its proponents to identify best practices for community outreach. Within this watershed, several kinds of social and biophysical problems converged with two environmental justice (EJ) challenges, making for a complex project. We will review how the project proponents planned the project, especially the public participation, in the context of minimal guidance in terms of agreed-upon best practices, and the EJ issues. The outline the project’s impacts, arguing that the highly interactive, process-intensive approach that the proponents adapted was in part, necessitated by the environmental justice issues present in the area. Furthermore, the process-intensive approach they adopted in turn spurred a broad-based understanding of urban watershed dynamics, as wellas a shared discourse, yielding sustained benefits for the area.

This paper will highlight the potential of learning through deliberative process (Petts 2006 & 2007) and collaborative learning models in general (Daniels and Walker 1996) with social equity. Efforts to restore and/or revitalize urban creeks, streams, and sloughs are more frequently taking place in poor neighborhoods with highly diverse populations and across multiple jurisdictions. Some examples are Wildcat Creek in North Richmond/San Pablo, California (Riley 1989), South Bronx, NY (Hopkins 2005), Anacostia River (Turner 2002) near Washington, D.C., and Onondaga Creek in central New York (OEI 2008) (Figure 1). In such areas, we may not have agreement as to what should be done and then we have different agencies and priorities, e.g., flood control vs. water quality improvement vs. habitat restoration.



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