Yes, dredging. The view above depicts Waterplace Park’s basin at low tide yesterday afternoon. I got a call from Joan Slafsky, among the city’s most “connected” citizens, who helps keep WaterFire running. She promising a surprise if I showed up at Waterplace at 1, which I did.
The surprise? A beach party was under way on a sand bar in the middle of the basin. (See video below.) A press conference on dredging was about to begin. (No surprise there.) Barnaby Evans, the creator of WaterFire, and Dan Baudouin, the director of the Providence Foundation, were urging that the Woonasquatucket River must be dredged.
The beach party was perfectly situated to explain why. They were hilarious but the smell was rude.
Evans pointed to one of the lampposts near where he was standing on the wall outside the Waterplace tunnel and said, “See? It is leaning in toward the river.” He said this was due to the instability caused by the failure to dredge, as the river water erodes soil beneath the channel wall at low tide, causing infrastructure above, such as the lamppost, to tilt slowly toward the river. Personally, I think it is just leaning away from the GTECH Building, as any sentient creature would do.
Providence dines out on its rivers. By which I mean the rivers drive development – and jobs, and tax revenue – in Rhode Island’s capital. Since 1994, when the first section of the relocated and uncovered rivers opened up as a public amenity, the city’s prospects, and indeed its very soul, have been uplifted by the rivers. The colony originally depended on its rivers and today again this “deep structure” of history has been revived to rescue the city and the state from what otherwise would certainly have been deeper economic doldrums. Today, the prospects for Providence are golden – but only if the city and state maintain its “deep structure.”
History + beauty + common sense (+ money!) = prosperity.
But the rivers are silting up, as the late Bill Warner, when he designed the new riverfront, warned that they would. The river is the base upon which the structure of the economy sits for the city and the state. Baudouin and Evans are proposing a study to show the need for the dredging and how how it could be reasonably financed – one big dredge, with little maintenance dredges scheduled on a regular basis to keep the silt at bay. I don’t think they really need a study. All they need is this: