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An analysis of floodplain buyout memorials: four examples from central U.S. floods of 1993–1998

Zavar, Elyse
GeoJournal 2019 v.84 no.1 pp. 135-146
disasters, floodplains, floods, land use, landscapes, open space, Missouri, Texas
Floodplain property acquisition permanently alters the landscape, shifting the land use from residential to open space. These buyout sites experience loss twice—once during the initial flood, and then again through the resulting property acquisition—yet the vast majority of the sites do not display any physical markers to commemorate these losses. Engaging with the critical landscape tradition, I examine whether memorials are present at floodplain buyout sites acquired in the United States from 1993 to 1998. Although the vast majority of these sites do not display any physical markers of commemoration, I focus on the experiences of four communities that did erect memorials: San Antonio, Texas; Hartsburg, Missouri; Wakenda, Missouri; and Valymer, IL. Building from the existing literature on disasters and memorials, I analyze the memorial narratives to illuminate the ways in which people engage with the impacted landscape and explore what is being commemorated. For these four communities, residents and the values of the community are the primary focus in the memorial narratives, with only limited recognition of the flood event, former landscape/neighborhood, or buyout.