Thursday, December 22, 2016

Green Infrastructure: Managing Stormwater Naturally With Green Parks

We think of our community park as a great place to take a walk, be active, or enjoy nature, but with a few key features they also can help manage the runoff and flooding that occurs when it rains or when snow melts.
Stormwater runoff from roads, parking lots, and rooftops causes problems including flooding, erosion, washing pollution into waterways, and less groundwater recharge.
A traditional landscape for a local park often consists of turf grass, with a few trees, shrubs, and flowers interspersed throughout. The layout and maintenance of these areas offers limited habitat for wildlife, and may require considerable amounts of water and nutrients to maintain.
Sustainable landscapes, on the other hand, focus more attention on selecting appropriate native plants, on minimizing human impacts on the environment, and on other methods that will conserve the community’s natural resources and character and improve overall quality of life.
If designed correctly, parks also can reduce stormwater impacts, and depending on conditions can save money spent on “gray infrastructure” like pipes and treatment facilities.
Features can include:
-- Just planting trees, but especially along waterways;
-- Rain gardens and planted swales;
-- Natural detention basins;
-- Wetland restoration that also hosts wildlife;
-- Fewer mowed areas, meadowlands, and native plantings;
-- Green roofs;
-- Paved areas that allow water to soak through (pervious); and
-- Rain barrels, cisterns, and irrigation supply systems.
Gray infrastructure is largely designed to move urban stormwater away from the built environment, while green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source while delivering other environmental, social, and economic benefits.
How does green infrastructure help? It can capture runoff, slow it down, and help it soak back into the soil and groundwater.
Native vegetation helps evaporate and transpire storm water. Trees along streams improve water quality and cool the water. Planted areas look good, provide recreational opportunities and help clean the air.
Often, the cost of green infrastructure projects, which do require some maintenance, is competitive with or less than comparable gray infrastructure projects, and the environmental and public health benefits of green infrastructure add to the equation.
“Green infrastructure is a cost-effective, resilient approach to managing the impacts of rain and snow events that also provides many community benefits,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said.
Green infrastructure also can help communities meet the stormwater management requirements of Pennsylvania’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) Program.
Municipalities and partners across the commonwealth are “greening” their projects with the support of DCNR grants. DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation has a number of resources available to assist with green infrastructure at parks and natural areas, and offers technical assistance through regional advisors.
A story map of sustainable parks in Pennsylvania lets you take a virtual tour of some communities that have incorporated green infrastructure into their parks and natural areas.
Homeowners who might be interested in implementing stormwater management on their properties can find information in the Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater Management produced by the City of Philadelphia.
For more information, visit DCNR’s Manage Stormwater Naturally/Green Infrastructure webpage, Click Here to be part of DCNR’s Online Community,  Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
(Reprinted from the December 21 edition of DCNR’s Resource newsletter. Click Here to sign up for your own copy.)
Related Stories:
Nominations Now Being Accepted For DCNR/PRPA Green Parks Award

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