Say Yes to London's Future; Say Yes to the River

Mar. 25, 2019

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Author: 
David Billson

Is the Thames a great river? A grand river (pun intended)? For me, the river is an amazing natural treasure. I have walked its shores in quiet contemplation. I have biked alongside it both for commuting to work and for pleasure. I recall attending family reunions in Springbank Park as a child, playing with my cousins down by the river’s banks. I am grateful for these memories. I hope many Londoners have experienced the same opportunities to make memories. I also wish for future generations to be able to experience that we have been offered. 

Fortunately, there’s a plan in place to make that wish a reality. A plan to get more of us Back to the River. With a combination of new infrastructure and sustainable housing developments along the riverfront, this plan promises to increase access and enjoyment of the River for Londoners—access that brings more than a beautiful commute and quiet place to create memories with our friends and families.

From my perspective, it has seemed previous development of London’s infrastructure to view the river as an inconvenient part of our heritage; something to be bridged over and otherwise ignored. I believe the plans articulated in the Back to the River project can reverse this trend and increase our shared appreciation of the river. 

As Londoners, we need to take accountability for the long term health and ecological strength of the river. It ties us to our past. It can connect us to our future. The future is bridged in a positive way when we choose to take responsibility for the river’s health and invest in everyone’s ability to enjoy it.

This project promotes economic development along the riverfront and provides a platform for future revitalization projects along the Thames. If we want to move forward as a community we have to invest in infrastructure that has a positive return for the people who live in this city. The recommendations from Back to the River come from several years of investigation into what worked (and what did not) in other riverfront communities to help ensure this investment pays dividends.

The Back to the River initiative is being reviewed as part of the City's Strategic Priorities and Policies Committee on March 25th. There have been some calls to scrap the project as too expensive. I think that losing the vision of a vibrant, interconnected downtown that incorporates our natural heritage is far more expensive in the long term. This city has depended on the river in one way or another for as long as we’ve gathered around it, and I believe this dynamic is as important as ever today.

If we do not invest in moving resources back to the river I fear we will move backwards as a community.

This past weekend our community benefited from the success of hosting the Junos; a success we could not have obtained the gift and insight from a previous generation of leaders who funded projects like Budweiser Gardens and the redevelopment Covent Garden Market. We have the same opportunity today to pay it forward to future generations by enhancing our relationship with our river.

I would strongly encourage people to learn more about the options before City Council on the 25th that promote building a stronger connection to the river and write into your local councillor in support of projects that increase the ability for Londoners to connect to our river.

Together we can build a city that connects both present and future generations to gift that is our river. It is true that the river will remain regardless of our intent. Thriving? Or neglected? That is our choice.

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