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Project Aims To Boost Use Of The Connecticut River

By Paul Tuthill


Springfield, MA – A project by an educational consortium in Western Massachusetts is looking into how more recreational, cultural, economic and other opportunities could be developed along the Connecticut River. The Riverscaping Project of the Five College consortium is holding its first public event WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports
A two day conference , which opened Friday, and continues Saturday in Springfield Massachusetts featured experts from Hamburg Germany. Anke Jurliet of Hafencity University said examples of the urban renewal that has taken place over the last decade along the Elbe River could be applied to New England's largest river
Hamburg has a diverse landscape that includes residential, industrial and agriculturall uses along the Elbe and its tributaries. Projects have resulted in old industrial buildings put to new uses. Power plants have been built, housing, community centers, and a large shipping port. Public access to the water has been greatly improved.
Frank Sleegers, a professor of landscape architecture at UMass Amherst, says a key to the success in Hamburg was community involvement.
Sleegers is a co-leader of the Five College's Riverscaping project, along with Thom Long, a professor of architecture and design at Hampshire Colege. Long says their 18 month project is focused on four communities along the Connecticut River..Turners Falls, Hadley,Holyoke and Springfield. He said they hope to build on some of the existing activities that community groups and others have started up , including the River Culture Project in Turners Falls, and community boating in Holyoke..
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, who spoke at the opening of the conference Friday, called for more recreational opportunities on the city's waterfront .
There are obstacles to recreation in the Connecticut river, including high levels of silt in some places and pollution from combined sewerage storm water overflows..
Shiela McElwaine, an activist who has pushed for better up keep and maintenance to the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway says she hopes something concrete comes from the Riverscaping project..
Leaders of the Riverscaping project are planning a symposium to wrap it up in the fall of 2012.