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US Water Prize for Outstanding Artist: Friends of Gadsden Creek

US Water Alliance | August 24, 2021

Friends of Gadsden Creek mobilized as a grassroots, community-led campaign dedicated to opposing the destruction of Gadsden Creek—the last remaining salt marsh ecosystem on the peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina. Central to the campaign’s work is educating others about the history of Gadsden Creek and of the community that lives alongside it.  

For decades, the historic community of Gadsden Green was the largest group of Black property owners in any single area in the City of Charleston. However, in 1938, the city seized the land from Gadsden Green homeowners and designated Gadsden Creek as a city dump, which it remained until 1971. Even after the closing of the dump, the city failed to maintain the landfill cap, causing continued environmental degradation. 
 
Now, the creek is threatened by possible future development of a condominium and hotel complex. The developers are portraying the creek as a threat to public health, but an environmental study commissioned by the City in 2020 determined that “the surface water quality in Gadsden Creek does not appear to be significantly degraded.” Friends of Gadsden Creek, along with scientists and citizen-activists, stand in opposition to this development, and advocate that the creek should not be filled—both for the benefit of the environment and the well-being of the surrounding community.  
 
The portfolio of Friends of Gadsden Creek envisions the revitalization of Gadsden Creek and surrounding wetlands as an essential part of repairing the social, environmental, and economic injustices that have been inflicted upon the neighboring community. The Friends of Gadsden Creek collective is comprised of passionate scientists, designers, an oysterman, a radio show host, students, educators, and naturalists. They work at the nexus of art, advocacy, and engagement. Their work has included creating infographics, hosting podcasts, leading field trips, facilitating creek clean-ups, publishing a picture book, and taking video footage of the Creek. The collective’s work as activists, educators, environmental scientists, and historians continues to raise awareness of this resilient, invaluable, and beautiful community and creek. 
 
The US Water Alliance is pleased to award Friends of Gadsden Creek with the US Water Prize for Outstanding Artist in recognition for their work advancing sustainable, integrated, and inclusive solutions to water challenges.