Finding Value(s) in our Stories and Waters

By Emily Simonson

I’ve never had so many people wanting to talk to me in my life than I did while working the USA booth at the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador. Drawn in by the flag towards the outside of our booth space, people browsed the EPA materials on the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, the Agency’s efforts on climate change, and guidebooks on protecting drinking water sources, materials from USAID and the State Department. A steady stream of people – the general public and conference go-ers perusing the displays at the conference exhibition – were keeping me busy.

“I love New York. I used to study there.”
“In Mexico, water is an important women’s issue, but we need to find ways to engage men.”
“I want to learn how rural and urban governments can work together to manage water here in Ecuador.”
“What can you do for the river in my city?”

 While the topics ranged from polite conversation to details on projects and technical information, a few themes struck me. Boiling it all down, each conversation was about values: opportunity, equity, participation and democracy, striving to do better.

Coming from my ORISE fellowship with the Urban Waters Program at EPA, I was in Quito to learn, volunteer at the USA booth, and support a program partner, the Caño Martín Peña Community Land Trust (CLT) from San Juan, who had just won the 2016 World Habitat Award. I got even more out of the experience than I’d hoped.

As part of the group that scheduled the programming for the USA areas, I’d arranged for members of the CLT to present their work in the exhibition space. The CLT’s story of community members organizing to grant land tenure to those living along the Martín Peña channel while working with partners to reclaim the channel from decades of pollution really reflected the values people had expressed all day. Several of those in the audience stuck around to talk with members of the CLT, because their story resonated with challenges they were facing in their own communities.

The CLT’s story and mission reminds me that water is central to both urban livability and sustainability. When people envision a better community they often talk about access to water for recreation, drinking, health and sanitation, and business. The ways people access and interact with water (especially in our cities) can reveal so much about the progress we’re making towards building cities that reflect the values we can all agree upon.

I really appreciated that our booth and the rest of the exhibition spaces were open to the public. The candid conversations happening there revealed just as much, and possibly more, as the high level conference sessions about what it’s going to take to realize the equitable, sustainable, and democratic cities of tomorrow that our communities deserve.

Moments like the ones I experienced do not just put into perspective that the issues we work on at EPA transcend the country’s boundaries. The knowledge and models we contribute at events like Habitat III are shared in a language that also crosses borders and is spoken by people of many citizenships– it’s the language of our values, our daily patterns of living, and our aspirations and actions for our communities.

The Habitat III Conference focuses on the future of our planet’s cities and how to implement the New Urban Agenda, a document on urban sustainability created by contributions from governments and civil society organizations from around the world. EPA lent expertise to this document on several topics, including lead, water, and food waste issues.

About the author: Emily Simonson is an ORISE Participant with the Urban Waters Program in EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds. Emily enjoys travel, hiking (urban and scenic), running, and reading.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

A Perfect Time for Parks

by Jennie Saxe

Flowers blooming along the Brandywine River.

Flowers blooming along the Brandywine River.

In the mid-Atlantic, we’ve been riding a rollercoaster of weather. In late February, my family donned shorts and t-shirts for a warm weekend hike along Crum Creek in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. At the end of March, the temperatures dropped and we needed toasty jackets for our walk along the Brandywine River Trail in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

But now – finally – it looks like spring has sprung.  And for me, that means more time outdoors. We’ve written about the many great spots for hiking, biking, and playing near the region’s waterways. Next week, you might consider checking out some of the nearly 20 National Parks in the mid-Atlantic that will be fee-free for the National Park Service’s National Parks Week!

Our National Parks are about more than just getting outside – they’re a connection to our heritage. Visiting these parks, you’ll also get a chance to better understand the connections between America’s history and her waterways. The Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is situated on the Patapsco River, where the Urban Waters Federal Partnership is focused on greening the watershed and restoring this urban waterway. The wetlands near Fort McHenry provide habitat for birds and other animals and insects.

At Assateague Island National Seashore, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, one of EPA’s National Estuary Programs, trains Coastal Stewards to assist with education at the park as well as participate in environmental research. The students study the numerous animals that make their homes in (or stop in as migratory visitors to) this coastal habitat.

So many of our National Parks have a connection to mid-Atlantic waterways, and springtime is a perfect time to enjoy them. Let us know your favorites in the comments!

 

About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Renewal Continues in New Orleans

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By Nancy Stoner

New Orleans is defined by its location along the Mississippi River and near the Gulf of Mexico. It is working hard to define its water future — a future in which the city is less vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise and is able to retain or restore many of the coastal wetlands that have been lost over the years because people have altered the hydrology.

The Urban Waters Ambassador, Danny Wiegand, funded by the Office of Water and on detail from the Army Corps of Engineers, is the perfect guy to take on this assignment. He’s working closely with the Mayor’s office, other agencies such as HUD and FEMA, and most importantly, the citizens of New Orleans and grassroots groups such as Groundwork New Orleans. Continue reading

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

It’s All About Connections

By Reginald Parrish

Growing up in Central Virginia, I spent many hours enjoying the natural landscape of the region. A favorite past time was fishing along the banks of the James River just north of Lynchburg. I recall being puzzled about why we were told to under no circumstance eat the fish. Still, the river provided a tranquil and relaxing spot — an integral part of our community.

In 2000, I accepted a position as EPA’s Anacostia River community liaison. The Anacostia River is a heavily polluted river that flows from Maryland and traverses the nation’s capitol, bordering historically disadvantaged neighborhoods. I conducted outreach to “east of the river” communities about how to improve the quality of the river and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. As I met with citizens, it became clear that these communities have more pressing concerns than restoring the Anacostia River–joblessness, housing, schools, public safety and economic development. As on the James River, I met many people on the Anacostia who fish as a pastime and consume the fish regardless of warnings.

EPA’s Urban Waters program reconnects populations with their local urban waters to accelerate the restoration of these waters. Over the past several years, EPA and other federal agencies have promoted citizen engagement in hands-on restoration through grants for education and outreach programs for schools, churches, and communities. The Anacostia is also one of seven pilot locations of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.

EPA’s Urban Waters program supports and advances other community priorities, such as education and jobs through environmental activities. To further this goal, EPA is renewing a Memorandum of Understanding to provide environmental training to at-risk youth with the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC). EPA and ECC are part of a broader local effort by Anacostia Watershed Society, DC Greenworks, Groundwork Anacostia, Living Classrooms, Washington Parks and People to make the restoration of the river relevant to community priorities – by leading youth to green skills and green jobs.

I participated in this program and had a very successful experience with Anthony Gregory who later received an internship with the National Park Service. Anthony is currently still engaged in work on the Anacostia and is excited about working to improve the river. Anthony’s experience is just one of a number of experiences that connect people to their places through ECC and EPA. I am happy to be a part of that experience.

About the author: Reginald Parrish is an urban programs coordinator based in EPA’s Region 3 Chesapeake Bay Program Office

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.