For various reasons, throughout the development of our cities, we have sometimes buried above ground waterways (streams, creeks, rivers) into pipes or culverts. There are a number of potential hurdles to daylighting, or “un-burying,” these waterways including planning and gaining public support, acquiring land, removing existing built infrastructure above ground, moving occupied businesses, adhering to engineering and design guidelines, and performing ongoing maintenance. All of this can be expensive and time consuming.
But integrating these waterways back into the community has a number of rewards. In cities throughout the country, daylighting projects have led to ecological improvement (e.g. improving water quality, reducing flooding, providing wildlife habitat), stronger cultural connections (e.g. attracting people, nurturing relationships to nature) and economic benefits (e.g. attracting businesses, increasing property values.)
There are a number of good resources that go into detail about daylighting projects; these are just a few:
These are a few examples of daylighting projects around the country:
- In 1984, Berkeley, California conducted one of the first daylighting experiments in the country, by releasing a 200-foot section of Strawberry Creek. This section of the creek, which flowed underneath an empty lot, now anchors the popular Strawberry Creek Park, formerly the site of the abandoned Santa Fe rail yard. It has been credited with helping increase property values, sparking housing and business development and reducing crime.
- A section of Arcadia Creek, located in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan was uncovered in 1995 after more than a century underground. The surrounding area, which had been in decline since the 1980s, has since seen a resurgence that includes a new museum, park, “festival place” for multi-purpose events and businesses.
- For much of the year residents of Providence, Rhode Island and visitors alike converge upon the Providence River to witness WaterFire, an extraordinary mash-up of music, fiery landscape, and party. Until 1986 the river was covered by highways and parking lots, but now stands as a centerpoint for significant pedestrian-friendly amenities.
- The Saw Mill River in Yonkers, New York was daylighted in 2011 and turned into a public park featuring local art and educational experiences to highlight the site’s history and ecosystem. Led by Groundwork Hudson Valley and its Saw Mill River Coalition, the daylighting has contributed to an improved river habitat, provided a welcoming public space for visitors and residents, and made the downtown more attractive to businesses.
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