Friday, January 9, 2015

Back to the River: West Branch Behind Water Street, Torrington

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I learned from Thoreau that rivers are the bloodstream of the planet. That was just an idea until I’d walked many miles beside one. The West Branch of the Naugatuck is all but invisible behind Water Street. I’ve come as close as I can to walking its banks from Main Street and the Five Points intersection, through the back lots of Water Street, up Church Street and beyond. If Torrington had grown into a big city, much of this would long ago have disappeared underground as the best way to contain its stench. It’s a long way upstream before one can spend a moment near the water without an intervening chain link fence, but there’s beauty to be peeped at along the way. The only stench now is from occasional dumpsters, in the service lots behind Water Street.

If these cataracts ran through a hill town, there would already be a greenway here, but Valley towns have turned their backs to the river for so many decades, they remain that way in inevitable arthritic paralysis. After the flood of 1955 the barriers to the riverfront got higher, deeper, and the containment past valuable factories and infrastructure put sections of the river out of reach to all except shiftless grocery carts with the knack for getting past fences. The river is clean, the factories are gone. Can the riverfront be reimagined to save it from the grocery carts and to help us cherish its rushing waters?

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