The Hudson River is one of America’s most storied and imperiled rivers. As the New York City Metropolitan Area grew over time, unabated dumping of waste water and industrial pollutants into the river took a heavy toll on the health of the ecosystem. In 1966, alarmed at the pollution of his beloved Hudson River, legendary musician and activist, Pete Seeger, built a 106-foot sloop–the Clearwater–and for years sailed numerous educational voyages on the waterway. Seeger’s outreach that mixed music and environmentalism awakened thousands of people to use their voice for change; the effort is widely credited as pivotal in gaining approval of the federal Clean Water Act of 1972.
Against this backdrop of history, we pick up the conversation with Rob Pirani and learn about improvements to water quality of the Hudson River today and the life that’s returning to the Estuary. Rob outlines what’s being done to address residual pollutants in the river system and the research and planning underway for new projects designed for adapting to climate change.
One of the important projects taking place in the Estuary is the reestablishment of oyster reefs to provide breakwaters that can reduce wave velocity during storm surge, protect against erosion, and provide natural water filtration. The Billion Oyster Project is embraced by the community and proving to be a success.
Rob’s passion for reconnecting people to the Harbor Estuary is impressive and we’ll hear firsthand about his thoughtful approach to supporting communities and the need for providing equitable access. The episode concludes with Rob sharing experiences that have been fun and rewarding.
In this episode–the 2nd in a mini-series titled “New Life for America’s Big City Rivers”–we discover The Chicago River with Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River.
In 1673, indigenous people showed French explorers where they could portage their canoes from Lake Michigan into the Mississippi watershed with just a one-and-a-half mile carry. The spot became known as the Chicago Portage and the trade and travel route ultimately gave rise to the Chicago Metropolitan Area of today.
Through conversation with Margaret Frisbie, we learn the history of the Chicago River and its terrible state of pollution in 1979, the year that Friends of the Chicago River was formed. We learn that Friends’ founders could see past the sewage and create a vision for a healthy river system cherished by the community. Friends has been working to improve the health of the Chicago River for the benefit of people, plants and animals; and by doing so, has laid the foundation for the river to be a beautiful, continuous, and easily accessible corridor of open space in the Chicago region.
We learn about Friends work on the Chicago River in three program areas, including the Chicago River Schools Network, providing K-12 teachers the training and personalized assistance they need to immerse their students in the turbulent history, evolving ecology, and improving health of the Chicago River. They empower schools with excellent tools for hands-on scientific experimentation, water quality monitoring, art/writing projects, and ecological restoration for students of all ages.
Margaret’s passion for paddling, wildlife, and community is reconnecting people to the Chicago River, resulting in a healthier ecosystem that’s become central to the region’s quality of life.
For additional information and to support Margaret’s work, go to Friends of the Chicago River. Friends also has a podcast, “Inside, Out & About,” created to take listeners on a series of expeditions along the Chicago River system where beauty and nature abound.
We’re excited to bring Margaret’s story to you, thanks for listening. For more information about our episodes, please visit RiverSpeak Podcast.
Southbank Riverwalk, Canoeing Downtown Chicago, Paddling North Branch at Horner Park. Photo courtesy Friends of the Chicago River.
In this episode–the 1st in a mini-series titled “New Life for America’s Big City Rivers”–we discover The Charles River of Boston & Cambridge through conversation with Laura Jasinski, executive director of The Charles River Conservancy.
Water quality and the health of The Charles River was on a long downward spiral for hundreds of years beginning with Boston’s founding in the 1600’s. In 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency launched the Clean Charles River Initiative setting a goal to make the Charles fishable and swimmable again. We’ll learn about dramatic improvements in the health of the river system over the last 25 years as well as explore the many challenges that lie ahead, including climate change.
The Charles River Conservancy strives to make the Charles River and its parks a well-maintained network of natural urban places that invite and engage all in their use and stewardship. Their work includes an array of active programs and projects such as creating floating wetlands, a future swim park, and restoring urban wild.
Our episode highlights Laura’s passion and vision for creating parks and open spaces in her community. For additional information and to support Laura’s work, visit The Charles River Conservancy.
City Splash, Floating Wetland, and Volunteers. Photos courtesy The Charles River Conservancy
Podcast mini-series launching EARTH DAY, April 22, 2021.
Over 32 million people–roughly 10% of all Americans–live in metropolitan areas along three of America’s rivers–The Charles River of Boston, the Chicago River of the city that shares its name, and the Hudson River of New York.
“New Life for America’s Big City Rivers” is a mini-series of three podcast episodes taking a deep dive into these rivers where a confluence of community activism, public-private collaboration, and the Clean Water Act of 1972 created the foundation for remarkable stories of stewardship progress and opportunity.
Each of these rivers has a story of a turn-around; each of these rivers has a story of vision and passion; and, each of these rivers has a story of hope with eyes wide-open to the extraordinary challenges ahead.
It’s been wisely said, “ no one can step twice into the same river. “
Hi. I’m Dave Koehler and this is a special Christmas edition of RiverSpeak Podcast.
There are a couple of things that make this a special episode beyond it being a Christmas edition. It’s the story of what inspired the creation of the podcast; and, that story begins with my grandmother, Marie Walter, who was born in 1887 and grew up on the Medveditsa River in Frank, a small German colony in southern Russia.
Like all good rivers, this story meanders a bit.
It concludes with the message of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All.
In this episode, we hear from Lori Faeth, Government Relations Director of the Land Trust Alliance. Lori’s story takes us to Capitol Hill and the halls of Congress where she is a voice for those working in land and water conservation.
We’ll learn about a decades long effort that led to the permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the American Great Outdoors Act. And we’ll hear from Lori about key policy priorities for land trusts and get her thoughts on what the horizon looks like as the Biden-Harris Administration begins to take shape. Along the way, we’ll follow Lori’s career path and gain insight into her passion and experience that fuels being a successful advocate for conservation at the national scale. Our episode concludes with Lori sharing a note and tip about Big Bend National Park.
In this episode of RiverSpeak Podcast, we hear from Sinjin Eberle, Communications Director of American Rivers.
Sinjin grew up running rivers in Colorado and the Southwest. We’ll learn about the San Juan River and the important role it’s played in shaping his passion for giving voice to rivers. We’ll follow Sinjin’s career path to American Rivers and have front row seats into making films that tell the compelling story of protecting our rivers.
We’ll also get a view of what’s on the horizon for river conservation as a new Biden-Harris White House Administration begins to take shape. The episode includes a deep dive into some of the issues facing the Colorado River, and the importance of the outdoors during the Pandemic.
We conclude with Sinjin joining a recent river ecology survey in the Grand Canyon and his thoughts on how we can all engage in local efforts to save our special places.
For additional information about Sinjin’s work, visit American Rivers. Be sure to check out one of their most recent films, Water Flows Together— “For time immemorial, the Diné (Navajo) have considered the San Juan River sacred.” The film is told from the perspective of Colleen Cooley, and explores the ways in which her upbringing and her native identity have shaped the way she interacts with the world. “The film is a meditation on the challenges Colleen and her community have faced, the unique relationship she has with the San Juan River, and the unique opportunities her role as a river guide affords as she seeks to create positive change.”
We’re excited to bring Sinjin Eberle’s story to you, thanks for listening.
In this episode, we hear from Ed Roberson, Conservation Director with Palmer Land Trust and the Creator and Host of Mountain & Prairie podcast.
Through Ed’s story we discover the Arkansas River in Colorado. As you’ll hear in his voice, Ed loves the American West. We’ll learn how a high school kid from North Carolina got connected to the Arkansas River and the evolution of his career into conservation work.
Along the way, we’ll explore the Arkansas River and gain insight into the tangled web of land and water in Colorado’s Front Range of the Rockies. We’ll also discover an important conservation approach Ed is leading to develop a system of protecting water and valuable farmland in the Lower Arkansas Valley by exchanging key parcels in less fertile areas.
Our episode concludes with Ed sharing his passion around creating the Mountain & Praire podcast and experiences in the American West with his family.
For additional information about Ed’s work to preserve farms and ranches, visit Palmer Land Trust. And go to Mountain & Prairie podcast to listen and subscribe to Ed’s wonderful podcast series on the American West.
Photo of Ed Roberson and his daughter in Upper Arkansas River Valley by Ed; all other photos are of the Lower Arkansas River Valley farmland conservation area by Russ Schnitzer
We’re excited to bring Ed Roberson’s story to you, thanks for listening.
In this episode, we hear from Risa Shimoda, Executive Director of the River Management Society and Chair of USA Freestyle Kayaking and International Whitewater Hall of Fame. Risa’s story begins with her passion for dance and choreography evolving into the world of whitewater, and then developing skills that have carried her into competing on nine championship USA Freestyle Kayaking teams.
We’ll learn about her work at the River Management Society (RMS), leading the way in support of professionals who study, protect and manage the use of North America’s rivers. RMS provides programs and services including an international symposium every other year, a national rivers geospatial database , a river training center, a river studies certificate program and much more.
We’ll also discover the Anacostia River, that flows from Maryland into D.C., through a story that challenges us to be intentional about addressing environmental justice and equity in providing access to the outdoors.
Our episode concludes with finding out why Risa considers the Middle Fork of the Feather River in California and the Watauga River, that flows from North Carolina into Tennessee, as two of her most favorite gems.
Risa oversees a couple of great web resources that are available to everyone:
2) the National Rivers Project has interactive maps, paddling and access information for thousands of unique sections of river in the United States.
Risa’s story includes recently co-authoring a book about her father and professional photographer, Midori Shimoda. The title of the book is, Photographic Memories: A Story of Shinjitsu. “Despite frequent reminders of the fear and distrust facing Japanese immigrants during WWII, Midori’s love of photography and drive to excel is a story of passion, resourcefulness, and diligence for sharing beauty through the lens of a camera.”
We’re excited to bring Risa’s story to you, thanks for listening!
All rivers have stories that ripple. I’m Dave Koehler. Be well and do good work.
Photo: With Kristina Ortez on the Rio Chama near Taos, New Mexico
“Querencia,” is a word used by the people of Taos and northern New Mexico to describe their sense of rootedness in place.
In this episode, we hear from Kristina Ortez, executive director of the Taos Land Trust. While working in Indonesia about twenty years ago, thousands of miles away from her home, Kristina had an experience that developed her passion for protecting the environment and community engagement. Through her story, we’ll learn how she became connected to rivers and Taos. Along the way, we’ll discover the importance of Rio Fernando de Taos to her community and take a trip on the enchanting Rio Chama.
Over the last ten years, Kristina has become rooted in Taos and northern New Mexico. We’ll learn how Kristina and the land trust worked to protect an important 20-acre wetland and agricultural property in Taos as well as efforts that led to forming the Rio Fernando de Taos Revitalization Collaborative. We’ll also hear from Kristina about the importance of racial and cultural diversity within environmental organizations in order to reflect and address the needs of the communities they serve.
As we learn from Kristina, her community is indeed “doing the work” to steward their cherished lands and waterways.
Kristina highlights the importance of play in the outdoors. Fittingly matching Kristina’s energy and passion, our episode concludes with a river trip to discover the wild and scenic Rio Chama.
We’re excited to bring Kristina’s story to you on World Rivers Day 2020. To learn more about her work and the Rio Fernando de Taos Revitalization Collaborative, go to Taos Land Trust.
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