Guest blog: Connecting people and place at The Waterfront Conference

Our Chair, Ross Martin, reflects on a few days spent at the Waterfront Conference in New York with some inspiring waterways projects.

The banks of the Hudson River provided the perfect venue for the Waterfront Conference in New York; a waterway whose history is rooted in industry, much like Scotland’s canal network.

Over 600 people came together including policymakers, waterfront advocates, journalists, academics, as well as engineering, architecture, and third sector professionals to discuss themes including climate change, resiliency, governance and the working waterfront.

We were given a real insight into how the many and varied interests in the health & vitality of our waterways can come together to share ideas about their development.

At the conference, we joined the ‘From Cradle to Career’ panel, and showcased the work we’re doing in partnership with Scottish Canals to safeguard and enhance canal infrastructure. We wanted to show how both people and place work with each other to create better landscapes and better lives.

The engineering majesty of The Kelpies and magic simplicity of The Falkirk Wheel are complemented perfectly by the development of programmes like our canal college® employability programme, bringing people and place together, safeguarding heritage assets and inspiring the next generation.

We designed canal college to help young people unlock their full potential, to learn, grow and benefit from Scotland’s waterways heritage and environment. Young learners gain practical, hands-on experience on real-life canal projects, safeguarding some of the nation’s most valuable heritage assets all the while.

Scottish Waterways Trust, canal college graduates gathered at The Falkirk Wheel

Scottish Waterways Trust, canal college graduates gathered at The Falkirk Wheel

These physical and people projects demonstrate how our built industrial heritage and it’s stunning natural environment can work in harmony, just as New York’s other repurposed transit corridor, the High Line, is now doing.

The High Line, once a train line which the city’s industry thrived upon, lay in disuse for many years, unloved and overgrown.

Now a public park maintained and operated by charitable organisation Friends of the High Line, each section of track is converted into a beautiful landscape to be enjoyed by everyone. An expertly revitalised piece of the city’s past which enhances the lives of its resident now.

The High Line rail tracks converted into landscape garden

The High Line, New York

This event also offered the opportunity to establish a link between last year’s World Canals Conference in Scotland and this year’s event being held in upstate New York, with a number of strong connections made, referenced and revealed.

We’re excited for what the future holds of Scotland’s waterways and beyond, and look forward to developing more opportunities which connect people with places. Watch this space for more to follow!

We’d like to thank Waterfront Alliance for inviting us and sponsoring our trip to the Conference, and to our partners The American-Scottish Foundation for making this visit possible.  You can read more about our partnership to invite people in America to support Scotland’s waterways here.