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Can Urban Waterways Become the Next Great Public Spaces?

Cities across America have been revitalizing their waterfronts for decades with new parks and development replacing heavy industry. But, a new breed of advocates is going one step further, and pushing for a time when people can just jump right in.
September 17, 2012, 8am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Will Doig profiles the "early adopters of the idea that cities' rivers and canals, cleaner than they've been in a century, are ripe for recreational use." Active in cities like Los Angeles and New York, where coming into contact with the city's "natural" aquatic resources would have demanded a trip to the doctor just a couple of decades ago, these pioneers are leading the charge in redefining how their city's waterways are viewed and used. 

According to Doig, "public pressure, combined with new technological cleanup advances, is changing some cities' waterways so quickly that they may soon be unrecognizable. In fact, this transitional moment might be the most intriguing time to explore such areas, especially for anyone who loves the hidden and ignored corners of cities where few dare to venture - those weedy, quiet, eerily beautiful abandoned spots that, just a few years from now, might be jam-packed with backstrokers and jet skiers."

"Indeed," says Doing, "there's something about the potential opening up of these urban waterways that sparks fevered interest. Maybe it's because, in suddenly gentrifying cities, where forsaken space is quickly disappearing, they represent a last wild frontier." 

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Published on Saturday, September 15, 2012 in Salon
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