Our River is Beautiful. What is Wrong with Us?

Nashville, I spend a lot of time, when I can, driving aimlessly around our city looking at things and then mulling them over.  It’s my way.

And yesterday, as I was attempting to ascertain how Timothy Demonbreun got into his little cave home and looking at just the gross-ass litter I had to drive through a bunch of non-river related industry to see, it dawned on me that we have this beautiful feature of our landscape that we treat little better than a sewer.

In general, we’ve lined it with industry and chosen to live elsewhere.

In the past, this made sense.  The river was, first and foremost, the equivalent of an interstate–full of traffic and noise and things that need to be moved from one place to another.  I live right next to the interstate and I can tell you, every morning, when I’m out walking the dog, I’m thinking “Should I be breathing this?”  So, I can understand why prior Nashvillians were not that eager to look at the river from their homes.

And it’s hard for me to imagine a day when future Nashvillians will sit in their houses and say to their friends “Why aren’t there more houses along the interstate?  Who wouldn’t want to stare at those twinkling lights all day?  It’s so beautiful.”  But what the hell?  It could happen.

My point is that I don’t understand why, with all the growth in Nashville, we’re expanding ever outwards instead of evicting the non-river-related commercial stuff from along the river and growing there.

9 thoughts on “Our River is Beautiful. What is Wrong with Us?

  1. St. Paul, MN has finally done just that — it takes time, money, and a lot of political power to make it work…

  2. Because highways don’t flood and wipe out the homes on their berms?

    I’m guessing the river levels and bank configuration have changed since
    Tim’s day…TVA and Corps of Engineers and whatall. However, he’d have been there on the bank to make things easier for his factors and others who want to trade with him. A riverside cave would be like having a big parking lot in front of your business.

    Given the huge floods he weathered in Kaskaskia throughout the 1780s and 1790s, I would be surprised if he lived in that cave year-round (and certainly not in spring!). I bet it was more like a place of business during the summer when the water was low. Caves would be a convenient place to store tafia and pelts and easy to guard (single entrance) to keep people from stealing all the stuff in it. Since the early commentators who saw him living in the cave would have been coming when the weather was good, I’m assuming that they merely believed a sort of wild Frenchman would of course live in a cave. You know how those French people are…

    But hell, now I really have to find out more about him!

  3. Mack, you crack me up.

    Bridgett, but we wouldn’t build down on the flood plain. We’d build up where the banks are high. Like where Tim’s cave is, we could build above that, because, should it flood, it will first flood way over on Shelby park.

    I’m going to have to get out on the river and take a look at it, that’s for sure.

  4. The trick of floodplains is figuring out where they are. And that sums up my career in a nutshell.

    It’s reasonably obvious at downtown that it isn’t likely to get that high. But on the side with the stadium and east Nashville it gets a bit more vague.

  5. W., if you can get me in to see that farm, I can tell you how to figure out where the floodplain is.

    Okay, I’ll tell you anyway.

    We open up all the dams all the way and where the water goes… voila! That’s the floodplain.

    Sucks for Metrocenter, but cool for me!

  6. But B, that tells us where the floodplains are if the dams are open all the way. What if we assume that’s right, but then the next time the dams are open all the way we get a really bad rainstorm?

    Metrocenter is all smug behind their safe new levy that the Corps built for them.

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