Parks, Recreation and Green Infrastructure

By O'Hara, Kevin | Parks & Recreation, December 2015 | Go to article overview

Parks, Recreation and Green Infrastructure


O'Hara, Kevin, Parks & Recreation


In many places across the country, parks and recreation agencies are among the largest landholders in a given city, county or town. From San Diego to Philadelphia, and in dozens of communities in between, parklands are also being used to soak up rainwater where it falls, and in some places, parks are managing stormwater from surrounding areas. For the more than 700 cities that have a combined sewer system, this could mean new dollars for park and rec agencies. These "green infrastructure" approaches are not new to many enterprising agencies, but the recognition of parks as players in the discussion on how we as a nation manage our water resources is new.

Last year, NRPA was invited to serve as a charter member of the White House Green Infrastructure Collaborative (http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/greeninfrastructure/gi_partners.cfm). This group of federal agencies, associations and nonprofits is charged with working collaboratively to advance green infrastructure in constituent communities. The collaborative will build capacity for green infrastructure implementation by providing a platform for national stakeholders to:

* Leverage joint efforts to promote the multiple community benefits of green infrastructure;

* Build and share knowledge around emerging green infrastructure technologies and policy issues; and

* Facilitate shared inquiry into the best ways to encourage adoption of green infrastructure technologies at the local level.

To further these goals, in October the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland and the Syracuse Environmental Finance Center hosted a first-of-its-kind Green Infrastructure Learning Lab (http://efc.umd.edu/greeninfrastructurelearninglab.html) in College Park, Maryland. This event was designed to build on the Green Infrastructure Summits offered during the past two years that promoted peer-to-peer exchange among communities of all sizes as they grapple with local stormwater management requirements and goals across the country. The Green Infrastructure Learning Lab continued this type of exchange, but also connected communities with the tools, resources and experiences of the Green Infrastructure Collaborative, a number of nonprofit organizations and associations working on these issues.

This writer led a session featuring local stakeholders on "Tools to Create Community Spaces" (http://efc.umd.edu/assets/ green_infrastructure/session_3a_community _spaces_npra_and_arlington_and_dc.pdf) where participants discussed opportunities and challenges to implementing green infrastructure projects in public parks, streets and schoolyards. The session featured Arlington County, Virginia's, Parks and Recreation Department, the county's Bureau of Environmental Services, and the Chicago-based nonprofit Openlands, which is working on transforming schoolyards in Chicago to manage stormwater and to provide wildlife habitat and, of course, great places to play.

Some of the key takeaways from the lab include:

* Most green infrastructure projects are driven by the need to comply with Clean Water Act requirements. …

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