Monday, July 11, 2005

The undoing of a watershed

Louisville was settled in 1778 at the confluence of the Ohio River and Beargrass Creek. It was settled there because of the Falls of the Ohio and because Beargrass Creek was a convenient stopping place just east of the treacherous Falls.

In the years since, we've dammed (damned?) the river so that it is more navigable and “safe.” We've moved Beargrass Creek away from the very center of downtown to a point a little east of downtown and more “convenient.” We have also encased a good portion of Beargrass in a concrete channel and turned it into a sewer, also for safety and convenience.

Or, to borrow a line from John Prine's song, Paradise:

They dug for their coal [straightened the creeks, dammed the rivers, etc],

'til the land was forsaken,

then they wrote it all down as the progress of man...

That progress will be the death of us, yet.


Eleutheros said...

Much like gritty industrial city of Glasgow. In Gaelic 'Glasgow' roughly means "The Dear Green Place" and a Celtic song has the refrain:

"There is a place that once was green
And the rivers ran to the sea.
The rivers flow forever on
But the dear green place is gone."

jholder said...

In other news, we've "paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

jholder said...

Or better yet, from John Prine's song Paradise:

And Daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg county,
Down by the Green River, where Paradise lay.
"Well I'm sorry, my son, but you're too late in askin'."
"Mr. Peabody's coal train has hauled it away."

Deb said...

What audacity, to think we could improve upon the works of the Creator.

My own Sand Creek was ditched and straightened around 1920 to drain swamps upstream to create more land for agriculture. The agriculture never materialized; one of my goals is to rebuild the original twists and turns of the creek bed.

We, as a whole, need to start thinking like a watershed.

the dharma bum said...

i don't know why, but this one sure reminds me of lyrics too:

"I watched my country turn into
a coast-to-coast strip mall
and I cried out in a song:
if we could do all that in thirty years,
then please tell me you all -"
~ greg brown, the poet game

great post, dan. it blows my mind, the idea of "moving" a stream. there was a good reason that stream was where it was, and it's folly to think you can just relocate it.

the dharma bum said...

i love it. i didn't include the last line that i wanted to for those lyrics:

"...please tell me you all -
why does good change take so long?"

Dan Trabue said...

Great lyrics are a-pouring in. Thanks.

And Deb, I like it. We DO need to start thinking like a watershed.