A Community-Built Resource

Winston-Salem, like many human settlements, was built around the availability of water from our streams and creeks. The patterns of those waterways shaped the way the city grew from a small town into an industrial center, with much industry located along rivers and creeks. Today, urban streams thread through our city, quietly connecting disparate neighborhoods and the people who live there.

These water bodies, so integral to our history, are often forgotten, sitting as overgrown and sometimes toxic remnants of a lost past or buried beneath our streets in underground pipes. Not only do urban streams have a story to tell about our past, they are also integral to the city’s ecological systems and hold tremendous potential as amenities that can provide linkages between people from different backgrounds.

Living Creek is an applied history/science/cultural design research project that, in pilot form, has generated: urban landscape interventions that inspire public conversations about streams, the beginnings of a collection of investigative maps, public art plans, conference presentations, designed experiences, public workshops and university courses reveal and convey collective stories about the history of Winston-Salem’s urban waterways and explore the complexity and potential of these ecological systems. Through the documentation of the past and the reimagining of the future of these urban water resources, we hope that the Living Creek Project will animate the creek corridor and inform planning and design of urban waterways in this city and beyond.

The Living Creek Atlas is emerging as a community-built resource including history, infographics, maps, and images, which illustrate changing stream channels, floodplains, water quality, vegetation and wildlife. The atlas will document points of access, interest, and locations of completed and proposed projects in public art, history and science. This project is led by environmental designer Kristen Haaf, historian Mike Wakeford, and CDI’s Betsy Towns in partnerships with faculty from UNCSA, WSSU, and WFU.