For more than 300 years, Vermont rivers have been subject to use and abuse — meandering waterways forced into straight-line channels, currents burdened with trash and effluent, and fish passage cut short by hundreds of (now aging) dams.
Today, the effects of these historic patterns linger as visible barriers to vibrant communities, whether urban or rural. Downtown rivers are lined with busy roads, parking lots, and railroad tracks instead of walking paths, outdoor cafes, and songbird-filled green spaces. Channelized rivers rush alongside highways and mega-marts. Lowlands that once served as floodplains are built-up with centuries of toxic fill and no longer slow a rivers’ current, setting fast-moving water on a crash-course into homes and businesses. And in the farthest headwaters, lands stripped of trees and topsoil lack the swales and wetlands that could provide high quality wildlife habitat and essential filtration to keep communities’ water clean.
When we look 10 and 20 years into the future, we want to make sure communities have the chance to celebrate rivers for what they are — key parts of vibrant downtowns and village centers.
To do this, we work with communities to reframe their relationship with their waterways and take action locally. We call it Face the River, a powerful combination of education and outreach that adds-up to community-driven projects that reimagine how we connect with our local rivers.