A crooked curb in California is a perfect example of how difficult it is to manage important places in our communities.
|Photo showing the offset in the curb along Rose and Prospect Streets caused by the movement of the Hayward Fault - photo from http://www.geologyfieldtrips.com/haywardresidential.htm.|
For decades, scientists documented the curb along Rose and Prospect Streets in the city of Hayward, California as it was slowly pushed apart by the Hayward Fault which travels perpendicular to the street. Geologists and interested citizens frequently visited the curb as an active experiment and perfect illustration of the forces constantly working along the fault. A website called geologyfieldtrips.com shows how the fault has moved since the early 1970s.
Earlier this summer, however, a city crew decided to fix the curb as part of general street maintenance. The scientific community was stunned and disappointed, but the city of Hayward said they had no idea of the significance of this curb. The city was simply acting on a mandate to provide safe streets to the public. The city said they would likely have worked with the scientific community had they been aware of the importance of this place. While geologists lament the loss of this scientific landmark, they note that despite the city’s best efforts, the Hayward Fault will resume its work separating the curb.
The curb in Hayward shares three things in common with many other important places -
1 – It is meaningful to a specific community – Geologists considered this an important site for observing seismic activity.
2 – This significance is not evident to those outside that community – The city of Hayward merely saw the curb as a hazard that needed to be fixed.
3 – It lacks any formal mechanism for protection – The curb lacked markers identifying the area, and had no regulatory restriction on activities such as street repair.
The curb also teaches us some valuable lessons. People who value places need to be aware of potential threats to these places, and should consider any steps necessary to protect them. Regulations may be an option, but many times simply reaching out to other members of the community can increase awareness of important places and improve options for protection.
Project proponents should consider the potential for their projects to affect important places, no matter how mundane they may seem. Open communication with the local community and other stakeholders can help avoid help avoid unintentional impacts, project delays, and negative publicity.