Synthetic Post 2: How Community and Environmentalism Are Tied

I’ll be honest, most of my weekends freshman year ended up being boring and rather lonely. When the tsunami of work finally subsided for a moment and I was left a quiet time to catch my breath, as most Saturdays allowed, I didn’t have a lot to do. Not finding much in common with my hallmates and never really finding a perfect friend group left me yearning for one of those pictures on the college brochures—a large friend group having a quiet picnic on a perfect sunny day. I applied for this SSIR for many reasons; however, I was really hoping to find some college-brochure caliber people to spend my Saturdays with. I was hoping to become a member of a close-knit community.

Look at that beautiful friend group in that college brochure. What a sense of community.

Look at that beautiful friend group in that college brochure. What a sense of community.

Geography of the James River Watershed is comprised of thirteen of the coolest people you’ll ever meet and includes excursions of experiential community based learning almost every Saturday. It has filled my weekends to the brim with activities. Through the countless hours we’ve spent together in boats on a river, traveling across the country to Oregon, memorizing dozens of tree species together, and relaxing after a hard Tuesday of work with some acoustic guitar and mallomars™, I feel as if our community just keeps getting closer. I would argue that developing our close community has brought out an even greater environmentalism in each of us individually, as well. Being a member of a close collection of people facilitates the spark and spread of ideas, especially helping in the addressing of environmental issues.

First, it is evident that the environment can create community. Michael explains the role that the environment can have on community by saying, “natural resources…give a sense of heritage to a place or community.”  I’ve seen communities built around environmental features through visiting ski towns and cities with ecotourism a large part of their economy, such as Natural bridge, Virginia (a city literally named after the environmental feature that created its community). We also saw this sense of community through outreach events such as the H2O RVA event promoting project ideas for storm water management and the Films on the Floodwall event that highlighted the James River Parks System and the work it has done to promote community surrounding the James River. Westhampton Lake provides a sense of community for our campus, as it is the focal point of campus tours and the location of many of our reflection spots. Our lake also attracts beyond our small campus community, drawing a larger community of families in the suburbs nearby to walk and reflect along its shores, as Mckenzie describes in her post. The lake provides us with a serene escape from the hustle of college life, and is uniquely University of Richmond. Imagine how our campus would come together if an outside force threatened to drain or destroy the lake. In Oregon we learned that one of the main criticisms of dams is that they sometimes destroy ecosystems that are meaningful to individuals or communities. Our friend John Muir seemed to take it pretty hard when one of his favorite spots got dammed. The destruction of environment can threaten a sense of community, leading to protest.

Our beautiful lake is a facilitator of community.

Our beautiful lake is a facilitator of community.

From Love Canal to Standing Rock, environmental protests are not noticed until people come together and form community. Community drives passion for ideas, and that passion turns to power. Think about a time you may have gone to a presidential rally or even to a concert of a band you like. When you’re surrounded by passionate people, it brings out your own inner passion. You may have found yourself leaving with a new spring in your step you hadn’t noticed before. Environmental protest being fueled by a sense of community was apparent in the Reedy Creek restoration issue. As Benedict described in his post, the communities surrounding Reedy Creek rallied together against the restoration plan. Around 80% of the houses surrounding the creek proudly displayed signs in their yards opposing the project, but it is unrealistic to think there was such widespread opposition to the project at the time of its proposal. The spark and spread of the opposition against the Reedy Creek project could become so powerful and successful due to the close communities involved. As one neighbor describes the project and places a sign in their yard, it invokes the passion in other neighbors, spreading like wildfire and uniting the community for an environmental issue. Parr also discusses in his blog post how community is crucial to solving issues. As individuals, it is difficult to have our voices heard. However, when enthusiastic individuals team up as a community, things get done.

People are more powerful together in a community.

In the ways that environment and community are tied, I think this has been an amazing SSIR. We come from thirteen different majors (counting double majors) and thirteen different perspectives. We encourage each other and build off one another. Our close-knit community has allowed us to foster a greater understanding of our geography and environment and has strengthened our learning. Looking forward, our proposals for Gambles Mill are befitting from our sense of community, as we’re comfortable around each other and able to work well together, knowing one another’s strengths and weaknesses. As a community, we’ve fueled our passions from our peer’s passion and we’ve all grown as geographers and environmentalists from our community. I’m so thankful to have gained so many priceless friendships from our SSIR and to be a part of this wonderful community.

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Local to Global

“Any area of land from which water and materials drain to a common point, such as a stream, river, pond, lake or ocean.”

~Definition of a watershed, first day of class

We came in, we sat down, and we listened. That is how the first couple weeks of Geojames went. Personally, I had never taken an environmental class and the last geography course I took in middle school consisted of memorizing states and capitals and writing them on a map. Therefore, I was essentially coming into this SSIR with a clean slate.

To be honest, in the beginning, I was not exactly clear on what the ultimate takeaway from this class would be. We learned a lot, but none of it seemed to connect. Similar to my middle school experience with maps, we learned about watersheds, each marked with boundaries, as though each one thrived completely independent of another. What was the point? However, as we dove deeper into the semester, the lines bounding each of those states in the middle school map seemed to fade away—the lines bounding each watershed with a different 8 digit hydrologic unit code seemed to dissolve—and everything suddenly linked. Because I realized, the environmental impacts of our actions do not stop at these imaginary boundaries that exist only on maps; these places and regions are all connected, and our daily actions have ripple effects on all of these places that could last thousands of years into the future.


I began to form my own definition of a watershed.

“An area of land within which all living things, and essentially, the community, is linked by, dependent on, and driven by, a common water course that serves as the focal point.”

~Definition of a watershed according to Sanitra, November 26, 2016

Yes, within our watershed—whether it is the University within Little Westham Creek Watershed or the city of Richmond within the James River Watershed—we are a community. However, as stated earlier, the lines are blurred. It is not just our small little place we call home that I need to pay attention to, or in which I can instigate change; I need to look at the big picture.

In John Lehrer’s “Urban Myths” he focuses on the idea that larger cities have faster “metabolisms” than smaller cities. If one translates this notion to rivers, the James has one of the fastest metabolisms in the state! However, most efforts to improve and protect it are concentrated solely within the city of Richmond, a city that makes up a small part of the full River. While Richmond—with its rich history of its connection to the River mentioned in In River Time and its most recent efforts to clean up the polluted waters through the Clean Water Act and through efforts of RVAH2O —may be somewhat aware of the role of the River due to the city’s overwhelming pride in it, the rest of the region seems to lack this focus, dedication, and overall awareness. According to the State of the James report, with a grade of a B-, “the river’s overall health has improved, but there is still much work to be done.” With terrible grades on nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment reductions, I for one, am concerned. As Jack states when describing the importance of group mentality in accomplishment of a common goal, “without a collective, distinct and conscious passion for the James, there is no hope for its future.  Positive change is dependent upon shared culture.” From the start of the river in the Appalachian Mountains, through the confluence of the Cowpasture and Jackson rivers, all the way down to Hampton Roads and the southern portion of the Chesapeake Bay, there needs to be a shared importance and value for the river for there to be a willingness to save it.

The significance of this idea of a common culture really shined through on our Reedy Creek visit. As mentioned in my earlier post, I was very impressed with how aware the residents surrounding the creek were of the government’s plans for restoration and how, by displaying the black and white signs in their front yards, they were passively protesting the proposed project as one. Michael states that, in order for their efforts to not go in vain, residents have to “exercise their most fundamental right by electing to office leaders who share the best interest of the creek at heart.” This applies to the watershed as a whole as well. Similar to the government in Portland, which has implemented a green-friendly city bike system and public transportation bridge, there needs to be environmental leaders within the local and state government who display those required traits of passion, knowledge, and power and want to see a positive change in the James in the future.

A lawn sign opposing the restoration

A lawn sign opposing the restoration

The public transportation bridge in Portland

The public transportation bridge in Portland

On a much larger scale, the whole world, comprised of 71% water, is all one big watershed. Looking at problems from a small scale can be beneficial, as viewing the world through 6 digit hydrologic codes can help us see the impact our personal efforts are making on the environment around us. But the world is larger than that, and the impact we, as a collective international community, have on it is greater as well. As Parr mentions, “if we better understand this larger sense of community, then we can push more people to take action to protect watersheds all around the globe.”

According to my definition of a watershed, we, as the human race, are all connected by our common water course. Geojames, through the service trips, class outings, and community events, sharpened my awareness of this and of how much of an impact humanity has on nature, locally and globally. The Earth is in trouble; its population is increasing drastically, but the amount of sustainable resources it possesses is limited. Although I alone cannot make a momentous impact, educating and encouraging others could. Informing people about their surrounding environment and getting them excited about the place they live—their home—can make them want to make a long-lasting difference. Ultimately, that, in fact, is they key to a sustainable future; creating a group of people with a will to work towards one.

A big tire.

Tireless James

The amount of garbage found on one spot in Dutch Gap

Dutch Gap cleanup

Earth Lodge!!

Earth Lodge!!

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SYNTHETIC BLOG 2: A Test of Real Environmental Leadership

We all agree that after the everyday hustles and bustles of this life, we need a relaxing place to rejuvenate. Whether it is a quiet meditation in your sitting room, a nap in your bedroom, a stroll in the woods, walking dogs in the neighborhood or yoga in the gym, the benefits we reap from such mundane tasks are invaluable. Now for a moment, think about what would happen if these opportunities for relaxation were no longer available. Would life be the same again?

This is exactly the situation that has placed Susan, a resident of Southern Richmond between a rock and a hard place. To her, the forests along the Reedy Creek are not just a wild place outside the comfort of her house, but rather a pristine environment where she delves into, to escape the bustles of life and emerge revitalized. Something as typical as the

The rich bio-diverse Reedy Creek forest

The rich bio-diverse Reedy Creek forest

chirping of the birds or the throbbing of waters of the creek against the rocky banks quell her. It is interesting to note the depth of connection that Susan feels with her environment as this shapes her view. Surely, it is this phenomenal outlook that helps us to appreciate small things that if we are not meticulous enough can easily overlook.

However, I believe Susan would not oppose any aims at improving the forests or stream conditions along the Reedy Creek. Human beings are by design created to want to achieve things in the most efficient way. It would surely be counter-intuitive for her to oppose such a proposal given the magnitude of satisfaction she derives from the area. Therefore, any form of antagonism to a proposed restoration of the creek should be a major call for attention, right? Susan and her neighbors are probably in a huge tussle that would change

A lawn sign opposing the restoration of Reedy Creek

A lawn sign opposing the restoration of Reedy Creek

their lives along the creek for good. With the general elections coming up in one week, it is interesting to note the myriad of anti-restoration signs within yards alongside campaign signs. Who knows, maybe this could be a foreshadow of the residents’ resolution to elect leaders who will have the best interest of the creek at heart.

That said, imagine of a situation where a city curbed crime by installing surveillance cameras at ‘convenient locations’ without first conducting a study to fathom the prevalence of crime rates in the city. Would this strategy be efficient in the long-term? This is exactly what the residents of Reedy creek feel the city of Richmond is trying to do with the proposition to restore the Reedy creek. It is elementary knowledge that an inefficient system leads to wastage of resources, which are scarce. The opportunity cost of such a system is usually greater than the benefits derived. Therefore, with the city of Richmond failing to carry out a stream assessment of the proposed restoration site and selecting the site randomly based on the notion that it owns all property and does not have to obtain easements from private property owners, could not in any way perfectly match the ‘surveillance cameras analogy’ alluded to above. There are numerous other stretches of the stream that are in equally deplorable condition that the restoration would have worked best. However, the city rather than looking at industrial or commercial sections where the

An aerial view of Reedy Creek area. YOU CAN’T SEE THE CREEK FOR THE TREES! That’s the way a stream should be – shaded, cool, protected.

An aerial view of Reedy Creek area. YOU CAN’T SEE THE CREEK FOR THE TREES!
That’s the way a stream should be –
shaded, cool, protected.

surrounding riparian area is already degraded, opted for forested land that has a critical connection to a good floodplain. I believe we cannot afford to add more sediments to the James River through a failed project, even as the recent State of the James Reports show significant progress in curbing this main source of pollution.

In the same regard, the selection of Reedy creek, which lies downstream cannot better emphasize the potential failures that are likely to result. It is common sense that restoration efforts along a damaged stream should begin upstream and move downstream with time. This strategy ensures high quality of water along the entire stretch of the stream. Hence with the proposed project, it will be similar to taking one step in the right direction and having this countered by two steps in the opposite direction. It is therefore evident that this is an efficient approach to deal with the problem. Moreover, the location of the proposed site just one mile from a concrete stretch of the stream poses a huge concern for the success of the project too. To tame the voluminous amounts of stormwater

A storm event at the Reedy Creek just a few meters from the concrete stretch of the stream

A storm event at the Reedy Creek just a few meters from the concrete stretch of the stream

that will be gushing past the restoration area, 100m of swath on both sides of the stream will have to be cleared. This does not sound good for the riparian vegetation that will have to be destroyed, most of which comprises of native species. Good environmental stewardship advocates for the protection of natural resources as they give a sense of heritage to a place or community. Native species form foundations of our natural ecosystems and protect biodiversity. It is no doubt that the proposed project is a contradiction of good environment management.

Even in the midst of this huge environmental tussle between the local community and city of Richmond, a rational approach is imperative to achieving a solution amicably. It is probably the best opportunity for the residents to portray exemplary leadership skills of passion, knowledge and power. They are already portraying passion by standing in solidarity against the proposed project. A huge proportion of the residents have acquired substantial knowledge through the Reedy Creek Coalition, which has informed their decisions to oppose the project while realizing managing stormwater from source will be the best way to restore the ailing creek. What is now left is for residents like Susan to exercise their most fundamental right by electing to office leaders who share the best interest of the creek at heart. Only time will tell the direction of water sustainability that the residents and the city plan to embrace.

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Water Ties Us Together


Two trees growing side by side.

The fallen leaves from nearby river birches, tulip poplars, and maples crinkled beneath me as I found a seat on a boulder that marked the spot where one of two tributaries flows into Westhampton Lake. The harsher light of mid-afternoon is just beginning to soften into the softer glow of evening.


The evening light shining across the northern side of Westhampton Lake.

The clear water of the stream is calm and quite low from a lack of any significant amount of rain in recent weeks. The stream and surrounding area actually looks quite healthy in general. A riparian zone of decent width lines both sides of the streams, woody debris lies in several places throughout the stream, and the banks are not badly eroded. The only sign of a lake not far away and some erosion in this stretch of stream and further upstream is the thick layer of sediment that covers the bed of the stream and has even formed islands and sand bars within the stream. Besides the sound of traffic on College Road about one hundred feet away, the stream, lake, and surrounding area all look very natural – I even saw a fish jumping in the lake to catch its evening meal.


Woody debris lying across the stream.

Sitting at this point where the stream that has run through neighborhoods north of campus finally enters our campus and runs into the lake that stands as the central point of the UR community, I began to think more deeply about our connection to the community outside the campus boundaries, and the role that water plays in that connection. I have seen before how Westhampton lake draws members of the outside community onto campus to walk their dogs, or take family photos with the bright fall colors, or even to discover local artists at the Arts Around the Lake Festival. But how does water connect those of us on campus to the outside community? As water flows into campus from further up the Little Westham Creek watershed, and then flows out the other


Looking upstream at the water flowing into campus from communities further up the watershed.

side of campus, it automatically connects to the community that influences the water before it reaches us, and is then influenced by the water that has passed through our campus. We are all connected through this water that flows by us, and we are all connected in our task to protect the water so that it is just as clean when it reaches the next person downstream as it was when it flowed to us from the person upstream.

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Careless Citizens versus Tireless James

The Tireless James paddle left me with a completely new perspective on the James River. The James in Scottsville gave off a different vibe than the James in Richmond. It seemed wider, calmer, and less polluted. Apart from the tens of tires we dug up, Sanitra and I only found 3 pieces of trash.

Previously unbeknownst to me, throwing tires in the river is a common practice in rural areas. Although strange, this habit exemplifies the concept we recently discussed in my Geographic Dimensions of Human Development class of private versus public space. The freedom people feel to use the James as their dumping ground is indicative of their perception of the river as a public space. They throw their tires into the river without consequence, because no one is looking after the James as their own private property. Although we may have felt morally superior, those of us cleaning up the James have no more claim to it than do those who polluted it.

However, the James wasn’t always public land, as we learned in In River Time and from Parr’s informative and entertaining Swedish Fish activity. Before intervention by Louise Burke, the river was controlled by whoever’s property bordered any given segment of it. It wasn’t until Ms. Burke and others organized the Richmond Scenic James Council in 1970. that a citizen group successfully lobbied for increased public access to the river. Eventually, they got the state to protect enough of the James to form what we now know has the James River Park system. Implied in Burke’s motive and the support of those behind her is that the public deserves access to the river; it should be a public space.

However, with the privilege of nearly unlimited access to the river comes responsibility. By throwing tires into the river, people are not living up to that responsibility and are abusing the river’s status as a public space. I’m glad to say that this is not true of all of us in Geo James. Hopefully we continue our commitment to protecting the river and can share our love of the James with all of our peers.

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Not so “Belle” Isle (but still moreso than Dutch Gap)

Early on September 24th Sanitra and I made the trip downtown, across the (always longer than I remember it to be) bridge, and onto Belle Isle to participate in a clean up through Hands on RVA. Having been there the week prior with class, I remembered Natalie’s JRA supervisor noting that we might not find much, as Belle Isle gets cleaned up often. This was exemplified by our being there twice within the same week. His suspicion held true. Although we walked around for hours, our bags weren’t full by the end of the morning because the majority of the pieces of trash that we found were small scraps of plastic or cigarette butts.This stood out to me as being in great contrast with Dutch Gap, an area I had never heard of before we went with class yet was that heavily polluted, much more so than Belle Isle. Realizing at this point that Sanitra already wrote about exactly what I was going to, I want to add to her analysis of the disparity between the locations by proposing another way in which Dutch Gap is more heavily polluted.

Per Forsyth’s Awareness-Appraisal model, people’s perception of a place is relevant to their treatment of it. Also relevant, however, is the physical geography and location of the place and the area that surrounds it. We talked in class about how “protected areas have porous boundaries.” We spoke mainly in terms of national parks, but the same philosophy can be applied to both Belle Isle and Dutch Gap. Belle Isle is a focal point of the city – it is located in the middle of downtown and is thus associated with that area. It in turn experiences the benefits of being a top recommended tourist destination and regular haunt of locals.

Belle Isle, taken from google maps

Belle Isle, taken from Google maps

Dutch Gap, conversely, is located in close proximity to the super heated water producing, green house gas emitting Chesterfield power station.

Dutch Gap, taken from Google maps

Dutch Gap, taken from Google maps

While Belle Isle is subjected to the typical urban pollution, Dutch Gap experiences a different kind of pollution as a result of being so close to the power plant.

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Working to Make a Tireless James

On a cold and crisp Saturday fall morning, a group of sleepy college students and Garret set out to pull tires out of the James River. As odd as this task may sound to many people who might reasonably wonder “How many tires could there be in the river, and why even pull them out?”, the James River Association actually organizes this event annually, which suggests that more and more tires regularly find their way into the river. As we set out that chilly morning, I also wondered about whether or not we would find any tires, because why would someone dump their tires in the river of all places? In a few short hours I would discover just how many tires can be found in just a four mile stretch of the river, and why those tires find themselves there.

photo 1

Michael and myself paddling down the river.

The James River looked actually quite pristine in the stretch that we paddled between Howardsville and Scottsville. The shores we lined with healthy looking riparian zones, albeit thinner than one hundred feet on one of the shores. I even saw some river grasses on the bed of the river that was mostly very shallow. The banks we only minorly eroded in some places, and a fair amount of woody debris lay in the water near the banks. However, the first tire that my partner, a freshman named Michael, and myself found was caught in this woody debris. Many of the tires found further down the river were likewise lying along the back or caught in woody debris. As water rushes over the tires, the chemicals are eroded and washed into the river where they are digested by fish and other aquatic creatures. Other than blocking the flow of water or disturbing the river bed, this is the primary reason that tires are harmful to river.

photo 3

The biggest tire we picked out of the James River. (approximately two feet think and five feet in diameter)

When I wondered aloud why someone would chose to role their tires into the river, especially some of the larger ones we found, I was told that it actually costs to recycle tires and dispose of them responsibly. This piece of information finally explained the presence of the tires in the river. If someone can dump a tire in the river at no cost to themselves, and they might not even be aware of the adverse effects of tires in the river, it becomes a little more understandable why they would choose the river over a costly recycling center for their tire disposal needs. Therefore, it is up to us and/or local governments to provide incentives to not dump tires in the river, or help people to dispose of their tires responsibly by paying for their recycling costs or even picking up their used tires for them.

photo 5

The University of Richmond and Batteau crews standing with our haul at the end of the paddle.

By catching the tires before they even make it to the river, we can keep the James healthier and cleaner, and also not find so many tires when we do clean up the river that we cannot even fit all of them on the Batteau that accompanied us down the James.

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Reedy Creek’s Chief Complaint

Think of the EPA like an emergency dispatcher. They get a call that Reedy Creek is having problems, and they send the city of Richmond to take care of it. The city arrives, recognizes the chief complaints of the creek, and then starts treating to something completely unrelated. Citizens tell the city this and suggest better treatments, but the city responds, “We get paid for the amount of treatment we give, not the effectiveness of the treatment”. This system has the right goals, but it needs policy that matches those goals by promoting the best solutions.

In 2010, the EPA established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load to target sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution through 2025. The legislation established goals for states in the watershed, which were broken down into region and city goals. Richmond, struggling to meet the benchmark of 60% by 2017, rushed a project to restore Reedy Creek by relocating the creek and establishing a new floodplain to filter nutrient and sediment pollution.

The city is right that the Reedy Creek Watershed needs help. 40% of its land area is impervious surfaces, the creek is channelized and flows fast enough to tear down banks during one of its frequent floods, and it is well above the acceptable amount of fecal bacteria. However, to solve these problems, the city has proposed a plan that removes bends from the river and further alters its banks.

Bill Shanabruch, a retired biologist who worked for the Department of Environmental Quality, believes that too many credits are given to stream bank restoration. Since bank restoration credits are easy to earn and are given per foot of restored bank, they are overrepresented in restoration projects. Although worth less credits, there are more effective solutions for Reedy Creek that will likely be more cost-effective in the long term. The real problems with Reedy Creek are the volume of storm water that flows through it because of all the impervious surfaces in the watershed and the fecal bacteria content.

Bill believes that the best hope for the creek is to educate homeowners with land near the creek about best management practices. His and the Reedy Creek Coalition’s goals are reminiscent of Dr. Forsyth’s research about community involvement. To make meaningful change, the community has to be aware of the problem and of the solutions they can implement.

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Reflections on the Lake

The lake is the center of campus in many ways. It is the focal point of the campus map and virtual tour, as well as of the physical walking tour experienced by each prospective student. I’ve seen dozens of tours stopped on the commons bridge, with the tour group strategically placed facing the lake. The lake divides the Westhampton side of campus from the Richmond side and is visible from many important buildings – dhall, the library, commons itself. Every Sunday night for the first couple months of freshman year, I walked around the lake as I caught up with my family on the phone. I always ended at the gazebo to read one of the books I’d brought with me from home. It gave me time to appreciate the beauty of our campus and remind myself of how lucky I was to be at Richmond.

view from the bridge leading to the gazebo

view from the bridge leading to the gazebo

I recently returned to this spot to reflect on how my perception of the lake and campus as a whole has evolved during the time I’ve spent on campus. During September of last year I had no knowledge of which tree species lined the perimeter of the lake, nor did it even cross my mind to wonder about them. I now know that there are American Beeches and Sassafras trees, among many others I’ll have memorized by Tuesday’s tree test. I didn’t know that the lake was manmade, but I’ve since learned that commons is a dam, and that the lake gets dredged regularly due to sediment buildup. Last year I may have looked for yellow bikes at the bottom of the lake, but not for pools of algae that result from a surplus of nutrients in the water.

As I spend more time on campus and learn more about its physical and human geography, my understanding of University of Richmond as a distinct place with a unique identity is enhanced. This is manifest in the aspects of the lake that stood out to me freshman year in contrast to those that do now.

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Reedy Creek (Restoration?)

Reedy Creek has become a source of severe contention between citizens and politicians in the city of Richmond. This little creek, a minor tributary to the mighty James River, plays a central role in a movement that has spread lawn signs to probably at least eighty percent of houses in the communities within the Reedy Creek watershed. Before visiting Reedy Creek myself to see the source of all this controversy, I could not understand why plans to restore the creek to improve the natural environment in Richmond caused so much backlash. I thought that everyone should be able to get behind any plans to help the environment. However, after seeing the site of the proposed restoration, as well as other areas around the creek that would be affected by the plans, and then also hearing about the cities handling of the project, the cause for controversy became very clear to me.

One of the many signs we saw.

One of the many signs we saw.

I did not have to look at a map to know when we were getting close to Reedy Creek. The hundreds of yard signs lining the road proclaiming “Stop Reedy Creek!” told me that the creek must be nearby. Sure enough, we soon arrived and walked through the woods of Crooked Branch Park towards the creek. Our guide began our tour of Reedy Creek by telling us that these


Reedy Creek in Crooked Branch Park

woods, hidden away behind a neighborhood of houses, was actually in very good condition for an urban forest. However, the restoration of Reedy Creek would take a fair portion of these woods. This was my first hint that I was about to hear about a lot of problem with the planned restoration. My expectations were not disappointed. As the tour progressed I heard about how the creek isn’t actually in very bad condition, how their is no plan to maintain the restored creek so that it does not simply end up like a similar restoration project at Albro Creek, and how the city’s motivation to do the project is all wrong. These last two problems were especially concerning to me. First, the city expected that local community members would simply take care of the creek without even consulting with them first, which shows how unconnected the city is to the local community. Second, the city seems to be only doing the project to get environmental protection points, not because they see a problem that they want to fix in order to protect the environment. These two problems are very connected because if everyone on the city council came down to thee creek and took the tour that myself ad my class did, they would probably throw out the entire plan.

After seeing Reedy Creek and the nearby communities, I saw that the local community does care a lot about the creek, and also know a lot about what it actually needs. If restoration really was the right path forward, chances are members of the community would be willing to maintain the creek. However, rather than just assuming that everyone will help out, the city should have spoken to them. They would have heard how going after the sources, such as storm water run-off and pollution, works better than going after symptoms through restoration. Rather than engaging the community in maintenance,  the city should engage the community by encouraging people to purchase rain barrels and turn impervious surfaces in rain gardens. A tour of Reedy Creek would also solve the second problem of doing restoration for the wrong reasons. It would show the city that restoring Reedy Creek could actually do more harm than good even if they still get their points. A generic point system does not always hold true for all environments, so while stream restoration may do a lot of good somewhere (Such as the Gambles Mill Corridor), it could also cause a lot of harm somewhere else, like in the case of Reedy Creek.

When it comes to healing a sick environment, passing down orders from city hall will never work. One has to see the environment, and hear from the people who spend time in that environment, to understand how to best help. Reedy Creek and the surrounding watershed do need help, but not through restoration. And while other forms environmental protection might not gain as many points as stream restoration, they will do so much more to actually help Reedy Creek, and that’s what we all want anyway, isn’t it?

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