February 25th, 2011
Guest column by Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward Association.
With more than 180 miles of canals, Phoenix has more waterways than Venice and Amsterdam combined. Unfortunately, we still treat a lot of the canal system more like hidden alleys. The Canalscape project, originally developed by former Arizona State University professor Nan Ellin, envisions ways to take advantage of the water to create more exciting developments where we could live, work or play.
The idea of Canalscape is to take the vast network of canals in our city and facing our community towards them – embracing them – to create gathering spaces and comfortable, recreational corridors while promoting non-motorized transportation. Two important aspects of the Canalscape vision are to bring nature into the city by not hardscaping the selected areas and to keep the ground level spaces public to attract visitors. Each “canalscaped” location would have a unique look. The developments could range from naturally landscaped recreation areas to small urban hubs complete with retail options.
Valley Forward Association has become the lead organization promoting Canalscape since Ellin’s departure from ASU in late 2010. The vision for Canalscape aligns with the principles and mission of Valley Forward in creating healthy, sustainable communities. It also parallels Valley Forward’s Pedestrian Freeway in fostering connectivity between communities and creating place makers that enhance quality of life in the region.
We have formed a Canalscape Subcommittee as part of our Land Use/Open Space Committee and are committed to spearheading a pilot project to demonstrate how to transform canals from eyesores to amenities. Currently, there are several locations being considered, but no final decisions have been made.
Canalscape was selected as an Arizona Centennial project and was the focus of an exhibit at the Countdown to Centennial kickoff event on the State Capitol lawn earlier this month. Rather than turn our backs to the canals, let’s commemorate the 100th birthday of our state in 2012 by enhancing what gave birth to our region – a water management system that connects our communities.