As four Bronxville High School students walked to the Bronx River to test the water quality and further conducted research in their classrooms on the amount of pollution in the river, a local filmmaker followed them to document their efforts. The Bronxville School will host a free screening of the documentary, “A River Returns, a History of the Bronx River,” in the auditorium on March 31 at 3 p.m.
The documentary, which was directed by Lesley Topping and produced by the Scarsdale Historical Society, explores the river’s history and efforts by river advocates and communities in Westchester and the Bronx to protect their local river. The Bronx River Valley was the hunting grounds for Native Americans and the fur traders, and the river powered the mills of the first colonists and factories. However, by the 1890s it had become polluted with industrial and human waste.
“We tell the story of how the river was reclaimed by efforts in the 1900s and is being improved today,” Topping said. “We explain how the Bronx River Parkway and Reservation was the first major cleanup of the river and how it impacted Westchester. When the river declined terribly again in the south Bronx, it was reclaimed by grassroots activists and the Bronx River Alliance which protects the river today.”
The river continues to be cared for through an alliance of private and government groups, as well as the efforts of volunteers, students, educators and environmentalists. In the film, Topping interviewed Bronxville High School students, as well as their science teacher Justine McClellan, who was a pioneer in the development of the district’s work on the Bronx River. Five years ago, McClellan advised two high school students as part of an independent-study research project on the Bronx River. Since then, the independent research has turned into a yearlong Bronx River Research course with a growing number of students each year. As a result of the program and through their research, McClellan and her students have assisted river advocates in major cleanup efforts.
The film also features interviews from the Scarsdale Historical Society's historian, writer and film producer Barbara Shay MacDonald, as well as authors Maarten de Kadt and Stephen DeVillo, Bronx River Alliance Executive Director/Bronx River Administrator Maggie Greenfield and Bronx River Parkway Reservation Conservancy President Suzanne Nolan.
Following the 40-minute film, there will be a question-and-answer session with the experts, students and film producers.