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Bringing Down the Wall Enhancing an Urban River and Park in Fitchburg, Massachusetts

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Miles of flood walls, built by the Army Corps of Engineers, bookend the North Nashua River as it flows through the city of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The walls are an impediment to visual and physical river access and have altered the fluvial and morphological properties of the river. Over forty years of dedicated river clean-up efforts have produced impressive in-stream improvements but the walls prevent the community from enjoying their transformed river and the city from capitalizing on this significant asset. The city and local river advocates wish to provide for access to the river, maximize in-stream habitat restoration, and potentially develop on-the-water recreation.

The community participated in a design charrette to develop a master plan for the river. A high visibility site was selected to pilot a design allowing increased access and improved riverine habitat. The significant aspect of the design is the alteration of a flood wall constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The modification of the flood protection project proved to be a major, but not insurmountable, challenge. After three years of design modification, permitting, outreach and fund raising, the Riverfront Park Enhancement Pilot is slated for construction in spring, 2010.
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Keywords: flood protection; in-stream habitat; revitalization; river enhancement; urban river

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2010

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