Revitalizing Urban Waterway's Community Greenspace: Streams of Environmental Justice



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While there are many reports of physical demonstration projects that attempt to restore segments and functions of urban waterways, there is no consensus about what to do and how to do it from a social or environmental justice perspective. We have discovered this during the three years of working on the Onondaga Creek Revitalization Plan in Syracuse, New York, and others have found this to be a major challenge as well. There are also equity issues in terms of who has historically been forced to live in high-risk flood plain or polluted water areas, with marginalized communities being the ones who shoulder the greatest burdens. This paper explores approaches to urban creek and river revitalization, drawing from international case studies from Europe and North America plus the authors’ experience with the Onondaga Creek Revitalization Plan in Syracuse, NY. Given the different waterway objectives for both restoration and /or revitalization, there is a need for a collaborative social process, with attention to social equity, in developing such projects and plans. The authors’ new book ’Revitalizing Urban Waterway Communities: Streams of Environmental Justice’ (Smardon et al. 2018) presents ways of addressing multiple jurisdictions and diverse sets of stakeholders. European and US case studies present challenging environmental justice issues, and so principles and methods for addressing them are needed (Moran 2007, 2010, Perreault et al. 2012, Platt 2006). Drawing on the concepts of collaborative learning models and coproduction of knowledge, the authors developed a process for community input for urban community waterway revitalization.