Natural shores are home to many, especially during warm months when people and wildlife return to Vermont lakes. But, not all shorelands are so welcoming. Twelve years ago, nobody wanted to go near the polluted shores of the Detroit River, a river that once caught on fire from industrial waste and was armored in 14 miles of car factory sprawl. Until now.
Less than 20 years ago, ecological designers, engineers and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy started restoring the Detroit River, installing bioengineering wherever possible and softening the shoreline. The shore is now a welcoming place for people and nature. So beautiful that the Detroit International RiverWalk was named Best Riverwalk by USA Today 2021 Readers’ Choice.
“Detroiters love their riverfront, and we are incredibly proud to be recognized and celebrated on a national level.”
Mark Wallace, President and CEO of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy
Wellness studies show that humans thrive from spending time in nature. And, maybe no surprise, but there has been a 20 percent increase in use of the Detroit riverfront since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 as people sought comfort along their local river. The community dependence on their restored Riverfront during the pandemic also highlights the initiative for and importance of environmental justice.
Naturally landscaped, Vermont lakeshores provide benefits for human wellness, water quality and wildlife, like the renaturalized Detroit riverfront. Shoreland owners can do their part to protect these qualities by growing nature along their shore.
During the last 20 years, when the Detroit River was improving, so was Cape Fear Valley River in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The new US EPA Director, Michael Regan, headed the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and led the cleanup response to toxic PFAS chemicals dumped directly into the Cape Fear River, upstream from drinking water sources for 200,000 people. US EPA Director Regan has made environmental justice a priority and intends to clean up polluted water and air starting with our country’s neglected communities.
It is time to feel grateful for the soon return to normalcy and for the approaching lake season. This summer consider what is best for your lake, and plant and protect native species along the shore because that is doing your part for justice for lakes and for all lake users.
Environmental Justice is a movement to clean up and restore healthy environments, especially in impoverished communities, which exist closest to polluted, degraded areas.
- For more information on bioengineering and restoring living shorelands in Vermont, visit the Vermont Lake Wise web site.
- The New Vermont Bioengineering Manual, featuring ecological shoreland stabilization designs, will be available summer 2021
- Nov 5 and 8th 2021The Natural Shoreland Erosion Control Certification Program is scheduled as a virtual training and teaches Shoreland Best Management Practices, including bioengineering methods.