Fix up Riverdale: Beyond the Blockades

When our group of volunteers first arrived at Riverdale on May 31st, it looked like a war zone. The majority of the trailers that were left were gutted, as families who once called them home tore them apart for the meager price of scrap, and piles of refuse littered a lawn that was fast getting overgrown. Our first few days at the park were filled with frenzied plan making, barricade construction, and relationship building. After the first few days however, it became clear that one of the most visceral wounds from this process had been the loss of communal space. So we got to work. Here are some highlights:
20 ft banner on the side of a gutted trailer

The first few days at Riverdale, as real cleanup work was still taking shape, the volunteers helped hang up quite a few nice banners. This one highlights what we feel about Riverdale and is easy to see from the highway.

We also began to develop the infrastructure needed to support a sustained rural blockade. Kitchens, medical trailers, security rotations, designated sleeping areas and community gathering points are a few of the things cobbled together in the first few days. The infrastructure, as well as people who specifically come to work as medics or cooks, allow us to focus here and be more effective.
Medic Trailer

Piles of sorted scrap
As it became clear that we would be holding the space for longer than a couple days, we began doing trash sweeps of the park. We made sorted piles of things we could use, and big scrap piles of the things we couldn't. Through this process we found a bunch of materials for some of our infrastructure projects.

Recycling Station

Part of this was developing better systems of dealing with the trash we were generating:

Our meeting have been an important place for us to check in with one another and make plans and contingencies. We are lucky enough to have a nice spot by the Susquehanna to meet.
Meeting by the Susquehanna
On the fourth day, Ben, a Volunteer from Ohio, helped us further develop our kitchen infrastructure by building a wood powered rocket stove. No one has much experience cooking on these things but we are figuring it out. We are figuring a lot of things out as we go here, as we identify a need and work together to creatively meet that need.

wood fired rocket stove

The last couple days have been spent taking the roof off a scrapped trailer to turn into an awesome 72 foot billboard. All sorts of folks have chipped in on the painting process, and the messages on the billboard have been determined entirely by community members. We are getting honked at more than ever! We have also spent the last couple of days moving our headquarters from a trailer at the front of a park to a trailer farther back that we have remodeled just for that purpose.

part of our new 72 foot billboard

more of the billboard
Now, on the 8th day of the blockade, trash piles have been sorted and consolidated, old trailers have been refurbished and re-imagined as gathering spaces, and entirely new infrastructure has been created. When we came into this community to a large extent it had already been fractured, but we would like to think that the last 8 days have been important steps in the healing process. Residents and volunteers have come to rely on each other, not just for the security of rivers and homes, but as a means of creatively meeting our day to day needs.


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