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editorial

The miracle of the Upper Delaware


April 26, 2012

[Below is a written version of the remarks delivered by River Reporter assistant editor Anne Willard on the occasion of receiving a Special Recognition Award from the Upper Delaware Council on Sunday, April 22, for her editorials related to river corridor issues.]

The first time I saw the Upper Delaware River, to the best of my memory, was about 20 years ago. I came up through Port Jervis and drove up along Route 97; and as I was driving the thought that kept on going through my head as I looked around was: “How the heck did this happen?”

You see, I lived in Brooklyn at the time, and had grown up in Dobbs Ferry, on the lower Hudson River. The Hudson is a great and beautiful river, but in the lower area where I lived, except for the Palisades Park, every square inch of anything that can be called waterfront has been paved over, worked over, built up, torn down and just generally transformed into part of a human streetscape, no longer a natural feature.

That was why I was so astonished to see, a bare hour and a half from NYC, another of the nation’s great rivers, so much of which seemed to have remained largely pristine. And it’s not that there wasn’t human habitation, but where there was, it complemented and harmonized with the natural amenities, without overrunning them. It seemed like a miracle.

Soon after that first visit I moved up here. But it wasn’t until long after that I began to find out what was responsible for this miracle. And while I think in fact there is more than one factor involved, one that is clearly absolutely key is the corridor’s Scenic and Recreational River designation, along with the River Management Plan (RMP) written to administer it, and the organization charged with the RMP’s implementation, the Upper Delaware Council (UDC).

That’s why, a few years ago, I thought it might be worthwhile to start sitting in on the meetings of this body and to try to understand how it works.

In terms of my own role, I feel that it is particularly important to communicate with the public about the UDC because the Scenic and Recreational Delaware, unlike a federally owned national park, was designed to preserve the communities as well as the natural amenities of the river. Communities are made up of people, and in order for the RMP to work, those people need to be aware of what’s at stake. They need to be a part of the conversation. And this will become ever more important as the threats to the delicate balance that is the miracle of the Upper Delaware accelerate in an increasingly overcrowded world.