If you had the RoadSpoke app, you would… Hear this Here!
Onramp to I-287w EXIT 5 approaching Bronx River Parkway
You are about to cross the Bronx River which is hidden from your view behind the cement walls on either side of the road. The walls contain both highway traffic noise as well as litter and garbage strewn along the pavement.
The Bronx River is the only New York City River that is fresh water. That's right, New York’s three main rivers, the Hudson River, the Harlem River, and the East River are all salt water.
For the last 200 years The Bronx River has been essentially an open sewer.
Nine billion plastic bags alone find their way into New York City waterways each year. But after over 40 years of The Bronx River Alliance cleaning up the waterway, the clean up had a significant breakthrough. Someone came back. Then another special someone came back. For the first time in 200 years, Beavers, the official animal of the State of New York showed up in New York City itself.
Being the state’s official animal, Beavers are very important to New York’s history. A major impetus for the first Europeans coming to New York was the hunt for beaver. The Beaver trade in beaver pelts was the basis of Dutch setting up fur trading posts all up and down the Hudson Valley in the 1600’s. As is the case today, way back in the 1600’s fashion proclivities drove New York to be a fashion epicenter. Back then beaver hats were all the rage all over Europe. Today New York is itself considered a center of global fashion.
By 1700 with about 15,000 pelts being shipped out annually, the big rodents became extinct in New York. Yet they survived all over New York’s iconography. Two tiny beavers adorn New York City’s flag. Beaver Street is one of the city’s oldest thoroughfares. City College’s mascot is Bennie the Beaver. No surprise, the beaver became the official state animal.
What’s probably most surprising however is that real-life beavers can now actually be seen in New York City specifically on the Bronx River.
The first rodent returned in 2007. Biding its time between White Plains and the South Bronx, this dam building and lodge living creature is often see diligently working away — just like the majority of New Yorkers. Beavers are the largest rodents in North America. Fortunately for the Beaver, its fur is no longer coveted by fashionistas on Fashion Avenue. So it lives here in peace.
That Beaver’s return to the Big Apple is truly representative of the clean up's success. This first beaver was named Jose, in honor of Puerto Rican born Bronx Congressman Jose Serrano. Jose Serrano was so honored since he started the Bronx River Alliance which even today continues its efforts to clean up the Bronx River.
The Bronx River today is a symbol of what can be done when humans get together to clean up severely polluted waterways. Now people enjoy the Bronx River instead of dump garbage into it. Hundreds if not thousands of Bronx Volunteers rallied to donate time and effort to clean up the river restoring it to an environment that even fish and turtles could enjoy.
Then two years later, a second beaver was spotted. This time the naming was put to a vote. The name “Justin” was selected in honor of Canadian singer Justin Bieber. Why Justin Bieber? Because in English his German name of course means Justin Beaver!
If you rent a kayak, these so-called Boogie Down Beavers can be seen usually at sunset doing their dam thing. As they say in the multilingual Bronx, "Viva la Beava!"
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