River corridors have become a key element in the sustainable development of metropolitan regions, not only because of their environmental value but also their social importance. For this reason, in recent decades public administrations have made significant efforts to recover them as genuine public spaces. Specifically, this paper analyses the strategies developed over the past thirty years to recover the Besòs basin, where more than two million people currently live.

This case study shows the growing importance of the social component in an increasingly integrated and complex vision of metropolitan riverscapes. Additionally, it is noticeable that public administration-led initiatives are starting to encourage active participation among citizens. This trend towards joint responsibility in the management of river corridors could lead to significant savings in the public sector, which is particularly appropriate in a context of economic crisis.

At this point, a geo-ethnographic diagnosis of rivers is necessary in order to identify the emotional bonds between local people and the riversides as a first step towards encouraging citizen involvement. From that point, the increasing interaction between community engagement and the sense of place will pave the way for active participation in the regeneration of metropolitan river corridors.