Feature Article - March 2006
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On the Waterfronts

Developing and maintaining beaches, shorelines and marinas

By Kelli Anderson

In the world of recreation, waterfronts now are transforming cities and their once ghostly downtown areas into vibrant communities complete with economic boom and ecological restoration. But it's been a long time coming. Waterways often were once an abused resource of the industrial age, a time where people were mindless of the effects of waste dumping or the ecological ruin caused by dams built for power to run mills and factories.

"In the mid-'70s, there was a greater focus on recreation—the visionaries came saying the time for industrial sites on riverfronts was past and that we needed to start to reclaim them for public use," says Greg Mack, director of parks and recreation for Ramsey County in Maplewood, Minn. "In the '80s plans were laid down. In the '90s they started to act. Now, driven by an interest in in-town housing—the whole condominium and loft phenomenon sweeping the country—people want water views."

Floating that theory, recent studies completed in Ramsey County conclude that people will pay substantial amounts to protect open space—and water in particular. Recreational development of waterfronts now is demonstrating its power to work an amazing magic when waterfronts are restored to their natural beauty and enhanced with public spaces and places for people to gather, recreate and celebrate.

Waterfronts and marinas are more than just places to throw in a fishing line or to observe from a car on route from A to B.

They have become the key to communal, economic and ecological resurrection.