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New Guide On How Urban Parks Can Help Fight Flooding

By Conni Kunzler | December 18, 2017

Source: Rachel Dovey, “How Cities Can Harness the Flood-Fighting Powers of Urban Parks,” Next City; NRPA, “New Guide for Planning, Designing and Implementing Green Infrastructure in Parks, Now Available,” News Release

Philadelphia, PA (December 12, 2017) – The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), in partnership with the American Planning Association and the Low Impact Development Center, has released a technical guide outlining the nuts and bolts of green stormwater infrastructure, including how to engage communities and secure funding. This is a follow up to a NRPA survey identifying parks as key in the fight against climate change.

In April, NRPA released a survey suggesting that while parks are key to fighting climate change — municipal parks’ agencies create bike paths, protect green space and implement water diversion tactics — funding challenges often thwart greater environmental engagement.

Now, in partnership with the American Planning Association and the Low Impact Development Center, NRPA has released a more technical guide outlining the finer details of constructed wetlands and bioswales to manage stormwater. Taken with NRPA’s other 2017 releases, it reads as a call-to-arms for parks agencies that want to take on the wet, hot and increasingly unpredictable problems of a warming world in their own backyards, one flood management strategy at a time.

Communities everywhere face challenges as a result of a changing climate — especially those most vulnerable to flooding. To help address these challenges, this new guide provides basic principles, inspiration and ideas to help planners, designers and decision makers integrate green stormwater infrastructure into parks and park systems across the country.

The guide starts with a glossary of those potential strategies: bioretention, green roofs, permeable pavements, land conservation, vegetation management. From there, it goes into which park features are most conducive to the various tactics — parking areas are generally best suited for permeable pavers and bioswales, trails are a great place for bioretention practices like rain gardens.

And then, of course, there’s the money question. Parks can “leverage the co-benefits” provided by green stormwater projects as they update their systems to comply with municipal permits and federal regulations. The guide suggests partnerships between parks agencies and water utilities, EPA resources and teaming up with departments of housing and economic development to spur revitalization in underserved areas.

While the guide mentions green gentrification as a necessary consideration — and suggests involving “partners such as the local Housing Authority to take necessary measures to maintain the community” — it doesn’t delve as deeply as it could into the thorny and complex issue.

“Parks are a smart and effective solution to many of the challenges associated with a changing climate,” Lori Robertson, NRPA director of conservation, said in a release. “Our hope is more communities will discover these benefits through the use of this guide, and the implementation of green stormwater infrastructure projects in parks across the country.”

See the full guide.

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