Monday, February 01, 2016

As Far As the Waters

For the past several years -- and especially since mid-2015 -- Acushnet has become an increasingly important part of this geographer's life. It is both a river I row on, a town I frequently drive through, and the focus of a fascinating community I am becoming a part of.  I was therefore grateful to find some details about its linguistic, cultural, and environmental meaning, courtesy of local history buff Joe Silvia.
Silvia's caption of this photo from the New Bedford Whaling Museum mentions that fishing was a safe pursuit in the Acushnet River "once upon a time." This photo is probably not from that time, but it is from a time before the dangers were well understood.
His 2013 essay subtitled Waterway that Helped Develop a Nation begins with the linguistic history of the pre-European indigenous people of the area that now surrounds the Acushnet River. He explains how a river only 8 miles in length came to play a pivotal role in the history of the region and indeed of the United States. He then provides a lot of details of the tragic history of toxic dumping in the river over a period of centuries, and concludes with the hope that his own daughter might live to see the river in its pristine condition.

One very positive step in that direction has been the restoration of a formerly industrial area very near the boundary between fresh and brackish water on the Acushnet -- where the river begins to meet the sea. I was fortunate enough to join a few other environmental professionals -- and to bring my guest geographers from Brazil -- on a preview tour of what is now the Acushnet Sawmill Park.

Restored with the leadership of the Buzzards Bay Coalition and the help of many public and private partners, this restoration is both cause for optimism and a sterling example of a single project that has benefits for water quality (on the river itself and in Buzzards Bay), flood control, wildlife habitat, vocational education, environmental education, and cultural heritage. My modest collection of photos from the October tour give a glimpse of this wonderful project.
This new fish ladder allows anadromous fish to return to breeding grounds for the first time in decades.

Some of my previous posts relating to the Acushnet include Whaleboat Delivery (about a morning row from the mouth of the river into the open ocean), Blue Boat Poem (a bit of reflection about my time on the water), and Harbor Learning (the beginnings of my involvement with the river and harbor, and some of my first lessons from it).

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