Building Momentum for Green Infrastructure Implementation (Part 2 of 2)

Trinity River at Continental Bridge in Dallas

Trinity River at Continental Bridge in Dallas

Storm water management has traditionally been a secondary thought in the design of our built environment. The majority of the projects I've worked on over the course of my career have followed a simplistic approach. I've been handed a site plan, a roadway alignment or a subdivision plat and tasked to make the storm drainage infrastructure work as efficiently as possible. My creative nature dwindled down to entering numbers into a spreadsheet or drawing a line across a nomograph that was created decades before I was born. This is traditional storm water engineering and it is still the norm in North Texas. It's all about maximizing the developable area and dealing with increased runoff with high contaminant loadings the best way that you can. It's designing against nature. This is why water quality in the region continues to degrade.

After decades of following this standard of practice we're now dealing with the consequences. The means and methods we've used to design storm water management systems have created downstream flooding issues, severe erosion of our creeks, heavy siltation of our reservoirs, dams of trash and debris and miles of impaired waterways. I believe it's time that designers of the built environment stop contributing to the problem. I believe it is our ethical obligation to find ways to mitigate the damage done and guide developing communities to avoid making the same mistakes.

The Trust for Public Land released its annual ParkScore results last week which show a great need for parks and open space for all of the North Texas communities included in the survey. I believe this is where we start to address the problem of our impaired waterways. We can begin to identify and prioritize incremental green infrastructure projects that will provide the maximum benefits by pairing up the ParkScore data along with existing and future land use maps and available data for underground infrastructure.

Within residential neighborhoods we can target those that are in need of quality community parks. The next step is to identify existing open spaces or potential property acquisitions that will allow for the implementation of green infrastructure strategies that will provide that quality space and maximize the quality of the storm water runoff discharging from the neighborhood. In some cases there will be opportunities to simultaneously address frequent flooding as well. Beyond the green infrastructure park creation strategy there will be many opportunities for incremental retrofits moving upstream into the community.

Green Infrastructure Neighborhood Park

Green Infrastructure Neighborhood Park

Within commercial and industrial areas we can target the areas that are obvious sources of higher pollutant loading of runoff and find available public land along the creeks these areas discharge into where we can create new green infrastructure park areas that reconnect the neighborhood to the hidden creeks. Then we can move upstream into the neighborhood and find smaller incremental opportunities such as streetscape retrofits that can treat the first flush runoff near the known sources of pollution (parking lots, streets, rooftops). Now this is not just a storm water management plan, but it also doubles as a neighborhood enhancement or revitalization plan.

Within the undeveloped areas the plan is quite simple. Do it the right way the first time. Identify the critical natural resources and design with their preservation in mind. Understand that new developments that showcase the natural resources such as creeks and lakes and the riparian areas that border them are the most productive developments with the highest property values and most desirable places to live and work.

I'm proud that we at VERDUNITY are following this new path. We've just begun working with the East Kessler Park Neighborhood Association to develop a neighborhood enhancement master plan that will incorporate green infrastructure along the Coombs Creek corridor just upstream of its discharge into the Trinity River. It will incorporate green infrastructure in concepts to enhance the streetscapes. I believe that the neighborhood association is a pioneer for pursuing this undertaking and ultimately this neighborhood enhancement master plan can be replicated throughout North Texas.

Green Infrastructure Planning in East Kessler Park

Green Infrastructure Planning in East Kessler Park

We're creating a neighborhood retrofit strategy for the Central Arlington Heights neighborhood in Fort Worth. Don Raines has developed a multitude of residential lot, street and commercial lot green infrastructure concepts that will add a lot to the neighborhood in terms of value, quality of life and quality of storm water runoff. This effort will provide guidance and concepts that can be replicated throughout the City.

Residential Street Retrofit Concept

Residential Street Retrofit Concept

We've completed a green infrastructure implementation strategy for Fort Worth's flagship new development, Panther Island. This is a gigantic redevelopment just north of downtown that absolutely gains value from it's natural areas incorporated into a dense mixed use urban area. With this project we moved beyond the tired old question and challenge that green infrastructure costs too much and it won't work in Texas. VERDUNITY was the first team in North America to utilize the state of the art Business Case Evaluator for storm water tool developed by our great partners at Impact Infrastructure. The combination of considerate concept development and robust economic analysis provides all of the stakeholder engagement materials to ensure that this beautiful development is done the right way.

Panther Island Green Infrastructure Implementation Concept

Panther Island Green Infrastructure Implementation Concept

VERDUNITY believes that the time is now to address the degrading water quality in our creeks, rivers and reservoirs and that we can do it in a way that provides optimum environmental and fiscal benefits. It's no longer a question of how we do it because we are doing it and I'm very encouraged by the results of our early efforts. We're ready to help North Texas enhance communities environmental and fiscal productivity through thoughtful green infrastructure implementation planning. Please contact us and let us know how we can help your community.