Downtown’s Indicator Species

The Duck-Billed Platypus plays an important role in water science. The return of the platypus, a particularly resilient species, signals an early indication of achieving success in restoration project. Similarly the presence of the more vulnerable medfly indicates a healthy ecosystem

This week, for the first time in over a year and a half, water spouted out of the ground of Pearl Street in playful jets bringing with it smiles of joy and the beginning of what proves to be a vibrant and fun-filled summer. I have long believed that children are the indicator species of a healthy neighborhood. The presence of young people is both a result of, and contributes to, a safe, vibrant, welcoming downtown.

Over the past year downtown has been threatened, much like a polluted water ecosystem, as we watched our “species” of inhabitants begin to disappear. Tourists, office users, shoppers, even diners, perhaps our most resilient species reduced in numbers. Today after an heroic “Restoration effort” led by public health agencies, economic and business development efforts and the community at large, the downtown ecosystem is returning, and as evidenced by watching the pop-jets and the other play areas on Pearl Street, our ecosystem is once again healthy.

We will certainly need to continue to nurture certain elements of the ecosystem. Office use will evolve, shoppers have developed new habits that will need to be addressed, diners have discovered new habitats that will likely be adapted to accommodate new uses. These changes are healthy evolutions. The job of place managers is to monitor, understand and support the changes, to continually learn how the ecosystem supports each element and how each element, in turn supports the whole.

So as the eco-scientists watch the Platypus, I am excited to watch the smiling faces of the children playing on Pearl Street, knowing that as long as they are here, we’re doing ok. Happy Summer

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