Saturday, August 07, 2010

Empty Lakes and Concrete Canyons

I snapped this picture of Silver Lake in Waterloo Park yesterday. I was standing on the foot bridge at the western edge of the lake.

In case you're wondering, that dry land is part of the "lake". Water levels in creeks and rivers around the area are fairly high now, even though it's the middle of summer. Not so with Laurel Creek in Waterloo.

A few decades ago, amid concerns that water levels would rise, the city of Waterloo lined creek beds in ghastly-looking blocks of rocks encased in chicken wire. I remember when they did that to Laurel Creek near Marshall, destroying beautiful banks, trees, and plants. You could see the wheel treads of the bulldozers for years. A beautiful burbling brook became a hideous mess.

The park behind Waterloo City Hall got the full treatment: Laurel Creek was buried at the bottom of a concrete canyon:

A block away, just across Erb Street in a less heavily travelled area, Laurel creek is in its natural banks again:

Former mayor Joan McKinnon told me that the water projections of forty years ago turned out to be incorrect, and Laurel Creek has instead dropped in volume. I wonder if there's any way to boost it.

We could have a beautiful (and cooler) uptown if we made the most of Laurel Creek. A hundred years ago Silver Lake was a popular swimming spot; we might not achieve that again, but it could be a pretty place if it had water and maybe even a fountain. Laurel Creek behind City Hall should be naturalized with willow trees hanging over it and rounded grassy banks. It may never be as spectacular as the rushing creek that runs through downtown Boulder, Colorado, but it could be a lovely urban park.


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