River Revitalization

Curated by Mia Lehrer

Mia Lehrer, FASLA, is the founder and principal of Studio-MLA, a landscape architecture firm in Los Angeles. She and her firm are heavily involved in projects to re-envision and restore the Los Angeles River, including the 2007 LA River Revitalization Master Plan done in collaboration with Civitas, Wenk Associates, HNTB, and Tetratech. This work aims to transform the channelized waterway into multi-purpose green infrastructure that connects people, enhances habitat, and increases ecological and community resilience. A number of other cities have undertaken initiatives to reclaim degraded rivers and enhance their environmental, social, and economic benefits. Here, Mia comments on seven projects in our Case Study Brief library from different designers and communities, representing diverse approaches and solutions.

  1. Case Study Brief

    Buffalo Bayou-After

    Buffalo Bayou Promenade

    Houston, Texas

    “River restoration can take place in the least likely (or conventionally scenic) places. This formerly derelict space under a freeway was remade into a thriving waterfront trail in Houston, Texas. Buffalo Bayou Promenade is a prime example of using an area that is perceived as undesirable to improve connectivity and revitalize a valuable natural resource. The project linked the north and south sides of the bayou for the first time, provides 1.4 miles of pedestrian trails that give access to 20 miles of revitalized bayou, and affords increased flood storage capacity for the city. ”
  2. Case Study Brief


    Napa River Flood Protection Project (1998-2012)

    Napa, California

    “A critical aspect of any river revitalization is partnerships. This regional flood protection project was created to protect the Napa Valley from devastating flooding. It brought together over 30 governmental and community organizations and 400 individuals to create "Living River Principles" based on shared values that guided the development of the plan. The project incorporated a variety of interventions such as restoration of wetlands and riparian habitats, bridge replacement, park creation and renovation, and trails. ”
  3. Case Study Brief


    Yuma East Wetlands, Phases 1 and 2

    Yuma, Arizona

    “An engaged citizenry can be a primary advocate for local river protection and restoration. The Yuma East Wetlands were created out of a 300-acre wasteland along the Colorado River in Yuma, Arizona. The high level of support from the local community through the Quechan tribe, private landowners, and the city made it possible to leverage $8 million in federal, state, city, and tribal funding for the project. The community has also committed its resources, with 350 acres of wetland having been already restored through the efforts of over 200 volunteers per year. ”
  4. Case Study Brief

    Renaissance Park

    Renaissance Park

    Chattanooga, Tennessee

    “Renaissance Park demonstrated that remediation is a real possibility for riverfront urban brownfield sites. This 22-acre park along the Chattanooga River showcases iconic landforms that effectively cap contaminated soils and preserve floodplain forest while creating wetland areas for flood storage and stormwater management. The park's success was made possible by keeping maintenance costs low by use of natural areas and through its artistic and cultural contributions to the community. ”
  5. Case Study Brief


    Tujunga Wash Greenway and Stream Restoration Project

    Los Angeles, California

    “Often urban rivers and streams are lost to their communities as they are buried underground for stormwater management purposes. This practice means that cities often miss out on the many benefits of rivers, and it often leads to more issues downstream with water quality, erosion, and flooding. The Tujunga Wash Greenway is an example of how a formerly channelized stream can be reclaimed for function and public use. A tributary of the Los Angeles River, the Tujunga Wash is a prototype for the reintroduction of riparian habitat throughout the city. The 1.2-mile greenway is now an ecologically productive riparian corridor that also serves human use as a bike and walking path. ”
  6. Case Study Brief


    Menomonee Valley Redevelopment and Community Park

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    “Even industrial redevelopments can make space for supporting healthy riparian communities. The Menomonee Valley Redevelopment took a former brownfield that suffered during the economic recession and created a light industrial park that manages the whole development's stormwater and provides a community park and restored riverfront habitat. The project's shared, centralized stormwater management facility has resulted in higher development yields for individual property owners. The "multiple-benefit" solutions incorporated at the Menomonee Valley Redevelopment have resulted in a light industrial park that serves its occupants, the city, and the valley's ecosystems. ”
  7. Case Study Brief

    Wadi After

    Wadi Hanifah Comprehensive Development Plan

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

    “It's important to recognize the unique challenges of restoring rivers in extreme ecosystems. The Wadi Hanifah in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is a natural drainage course in a very dry region that was suffering extreme contamination and ecosystem collapse due to increased development in the city. As a response, the Wadi Hanifah Comprehensive Development Plan laid out a strategy for the environmental restoration of the corridor, which included a series of civic spaces and the world's largest wastewater bioremediation facility. This revitalization of the Wadi has created a 31-mile riverwalk corridor that offers extensive open space in addition to more private 'family spaces' to accommodate the needs of Riyadh citizens.”

Resilience, Restoration

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