Category Archives: Announcements

Reflecting on an Internship with Friends of the Rio de Flag

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Reflecting on an Internship with Friends of the Rio de Flag

This is a reflection written by James Archuleta in May 2018 and published on August 21st, 2018. James graduated from Northern Arizona University in summer 2018.

James Archuleta stands outside the Tourist Home, a historic structure in the Southside Neighborhood.

My name is James Archuleta. I am a senior at Northern Arizona University majoring in political science with a minor in psychology. This spring, I worked as an intern with the Friends of the Rio de Flag on their Rio de Flag and Southside Neighborhood project funded by an EPA Environmental Justice Small grant. My internship focused on increasing community awareness about the history of the neighborhood and Rio flowing through it. My main tasks included: 1) building a social media campaign to provide our Facebook followers the chance to learn more about their local community, and; 2) canvassing along with staff from the Community Development section of the City of Flagstaff who are working to update the Southside Neighborhood Plan through resident-driven process and input. This door-to-door outreach allows us to collect information from residents about their experiences with flooding of the Rio de Flag and how they feel this issue should be addressed.

This project is about education, outreach, and most importantly, building relationships with Southside Neighborhood residents in order to better understand their experiences. The Rio de Flag runs through the heart of the Southside Neighborhood (Figure 1). Like all rivers, the Rio de Flag has a floodplain, or area of low-lying ground adjacent to the river that is subject to flooding. Figure 1 shows the delineation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s “100-year floodplain” which encompasses a large section of the Southside. The area within a 100-year floodplain has 1 in 100 chance of flooding every year.

Figure 1. Rio de Flag flowing through Southside with FEMA designated 100-year floodplain. Pre-1920s channel shows Rio flowing along railroad alignment.

This is problematic for the residents of the Southside Neighborhood, but it’s more complicated than that. Flooding in the Southside is a matter of environmental justice. Historically, the Southside Neighborhood was a segregated community. In the early 1900s, the Rio was diverted into the neighborhood. The new channel was built with insufficient space to carry small floods let alone a 100-year flood. This history put low income, minority families of the Southside Neighborhood at a disadvantage. Today, those multi-generational families still bear the burden of this diversion of flow.

The residents of the Southside face a multitude of problems related to flooding. The designation of a FEMA 100-year in their neighborhood means that they have an added cost to their home ownership in the form of paying legally-required flood insurance. In addition, if Southside residents want to renovate their homes, they must follow what is known as the “50-50” rule. This FEMA rule means that residents are required to follow FEMA building requirements for any renovation that is equal to or greater than 50% of the value of the structure being renovated. Often times this means “building out of the floodplain” for such renovations, or literally raising the foundation of the structure above the height of the 100-year flood water levels. The thing is, if they don’t renovate, their properties are in the path of the waters if the Rio ever does flood. It’s a catch 22 situation: pay the high costs needed to renovate, or keep paying flood insurance and leave your property susceptible to damage by flooding.

The City of Flagstaff has been trying to address this issue through a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Their partnership, known as the Rio de Flag Flood Control Project, began in 1995. While parts of the project have been completed, but project design has yet to be completed, let alone the on-the-ground work needed to protect residents from a 100-year flood. In addition, over 20 years have passed since the Southside residents have been approached for their input on the project design.

The work I carried out with the Friends of the Rio will give Southside residents a chance to share their insights. What do these residents want for the future of their neighborhood and river? What issues are they facing and what opportunities do they perceive?

The burden of flooding ultimately falls on the Southside residents. Their livelihoods and their businesses are those that would be directly affected if a flood were to hit. They are the ones who will directly deal with having to clean up, move, or deal with the destruction of their personal belongings. Their voices need to be heard and collecting their input and engaging them in the process is a step in the right direction to addressing the problem of flooding.

Matt Muchna, the Friends of the Rio’s Education and Outreach Project Manager, illustrated an important point about natural disasters: they illuminate and exacerbate social problems that are already in place before the disaster hits. “Social floods” disproportionally affect minorities and low-income communities after a natural flooding disaster strikes. If you have the means and are wealthy, the disaster is tough to deal with, but isn’t anything that can’t be solved with a little time. On the other hand, if you do not have the means, then you end up stranded on a roof top, waiting for help, trying to figure out the stress of how you’re going to get your life back together, paired with the stress of the fact that your life is in danger, and you need supplies and other necessities to stay alive. Flood disasters hold at risk communities back.

For that very reason, finding a solution to potential flooding is important because those pre-disaster inequalities can be rectified; proactive plans can be made. Floods never have to be a problem if the area is properly prepared and managed to handle large water flows without community flooding. Flood planning and prevention matters because it helps everybody out, not just those at risk. It helps keep those inequalities from becoming worse and it allows people focus on the day to day needs that are important. It enables residents to receive the proper payment for their homes and properties, enables renovations, and provides them with a little peace of mind that does not often exist when living in a vulnerable community.

Thank you to James for his dedication to community and eagerness to always keep learning! Best wishes in life’s next journey.

August 18th: Stormwater Workshop in the Southside

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The City of Flagstaff, Friends of the Rio, and the Southside community Association will co-host a meeting Addressing Impacts, Challenges and Opportunities Surrounding Flooding for Southside property owners and residents. Discussion will include how stormwater/flooding has influenced and currently influences lifestyles and property in the Southside and how to manage the Rio de Flag in the future. This meeting will be Saturday, August 18th 10am to 1pm at the Murdoch Community Center(203 E Brannen Ave). Lunch will be provided.

Locations, dates, and times of on-the-street meetings in the Southside Neighborhood.

Additionally, the Southside community planning team will host street and block level meetings in public spaces with residents, property owners and interested stakeholders to talk about issues related to these locations.

City staff will set-up a table and a pop-out canopy at the times and locations shown to the side. Staff will bring multiple maps, drawings, and tools to help facilitate conversations about what you want to see in these areas. Discussions can center around whatever topic you believe is most important. They will be organized around providing ideas for potential solutions though drawing and showing. Come ready to share your ideas on “what this street should look like,” how could this crossing work better,” “where could more bike lanes exist,” where should better public spaces/parks exist,” “how can this area feel more safe,” or whatever else you would like to design.

From Ditch to Greenbelt: reclamation of the Rio de Flag in Cheshire

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From Ditch to Greenbelt: reclamation of the Rio de Flag in Cheshire

Thursday, August 2nd, 5:30pm – 7pm

Meet at the NW section of the Museum of Northern Arizona’s parking lot.

Dr. Peter Price inspects a young willow tree he planted along the Rio de Flag in Cheshire. Photo by Tom Bean Photography

Ephemeral rivers only flow during large storm events such as summer monsoons. As such, these dry corridors are often perceived as and even treated as nothing more than ditches.

On Thursday, August 2nd we will discover how Regents’ Professor Emeritus Peter Price transformed the “ditch” behind his house into a flourishing riparian greenbelt. Dr. Price’s teachings at Northern Arizona University focused on insect ecology, entomology, and biological evolution.

Dr. Price will guide us along the Rio de Flag in his neighborhood where he planted willows and other plant species. These plantings create a vibrant area and provide shade for visitors and habitat for wildlife.

The restoration of ephemeral rivers builds awareness and recognition of these places as assets rather than unsightly burdens.

We look forward to seeing you next Thursday for a relaxing hike. Meet at 5:30pm at the northwest corner of the Museum of Northern Arizona’s parking lot (3101 N Fort Valley Road).

We are suggesting a $5/participant donation for this guided hike.

***Thank you to the Museum of Northern Arizona for providing parking for this event! Thirsty Thursday will take place at the museum following this hike (6-8pm). The cost is $6/person or free entry for museum members***

 

July 28th: Cleanup Our River!

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July 28th: Cleanup Our River

8AM-11AM at Foxglen Area (south on 4th Street)

Recent floods have carried large amounts of trash and debris throughout the community. Join us to cleanup the Foxglen area which got covered in trash after last week’s storms.

Coffee and breakfast provided. Gloves, trash pickers, and bags provided.

Bring your own water bottle and coffee mug. Note: there is not a restroom on site for this cleanup. Please plan accordingly.

Meet at the end of 4th Street driving south (as if headed to the Coconino Humane Association). See map: https://www.google.com/maps/@35.1912372,-111.6057563,16z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!6m1!1s1l-GFZIemhY7-cf4PzfqfUS1-9bPYWyOA?hl=en&authuser=1

July 24th: Moving People and Water Workshop and Tour

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Public Workshop
Creating Solutions to Address Transportation and Stormwater Issues in the Southside

More information at www.flagstaff.az.gov/southsideplan

Schedule

4:30pm to 6:30pm Neighborhood Tour (Please RSVP to Carlton Johnson at cjohnson@flagstaffaz.gov or call (928)213-2615 to save your spot)
6:30pm to 7:00pm Dinner and Presentation by staff
7:00pm to 8:30pm Break out Group Discussions about:
1. Street Design and Transportation
2. On and Off Street Parking
3. Future Transportation Scenarios – Lone Tree Extension to Route 66, Milton Road BNSF Bridge expansion, and expansion of the Downtown Transit Connection Center
4. Stormwater/Flooding Management and Facilities

July 17th: Trail to Tavern with Mountain Sports

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Do you enjoy hiking? What about hiking followed by complimentary pints from our favorite local brewery?

Join us on Tuesday, July 17th at Mountain Sports, 24 N San Francisco Street

3 pm Hike
Meet at Mountain Sports Flagstaff at 3pm for a guided hike with Friends of the Rio de Flag. Join us for an informative walk along the Urban Trail with details on local ecology and history.

5pm Music, discounts and FREE beer
Following the hike, return to Mountain Sports
Enjoy music by Railery, FREE beer from Mother Road Beer and 20% off all Toad&Co purchases.
Friends of the Rio de Flag will also be in house sharing information about their organization and mission to protect, restore, clean up and improve the Rio de Flag.

June 29th: Rio Cleanup with United By Blue

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Rio Cleanup with United by Blue on June 29th

Date: June 29, 2018

Location: Rio de Flag
5000 – 5324 Historic Route 66
Flagstaff, AZ  86004

Time: 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Join United by Blue,  Peace Surplus, the City of Flagstaff, Friends of Rio de Flag, and Natural Restorations  for their first ever joint waterway cleanup in Flagstaff, AZ! This cleanup is one of 20 that United by Blue is co-hosting nationwide this summer, from June-August, to establish community partnerships between their specialty retailers, conservation or municipal partners, and volunteers.

Join us as we contribute to the cleanup, restoration, and education work that the Friends of Rio de Flag and Natural Restorations do to keep Rio de Flag healthy and beautiful all year round. We will clean up trash and debris along the shoreline of the river, preventing it from flowing downstream and harming wildlife along the way. Kick your weekend off right with an evening of cleaning, games, and protecting the Rio de Flag ecosystem!

United By Blue provides all cleanup supplies, snacks, and drinking water. Please wear sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty or wet. Learn more about the cleanup calling 215-278-7858 ext. 4 or by emailing cleanup@unitedbyblue.com.