Green Infrastructure Planning to Empower Communities | Planetizen: The independent resource for people passionate about planning and related fields

Like many cities with combined sewers, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is developing a long-term plan to reduce sewer overflows into its river. With its recently adopted "Community Greening Plan" [pdf], Capital Region Water has committed to the implementation of green stormwater infrastructure throughout Harrisburg—including transforming public places such as parks and greenways—as part of this stormwater management strategy.

Yet, faced with similar stormwater management issues as other water utilities, Capital Region Water is taking a notably different approach to implementing green stormwater infrastructure—one that empowers Harrisburg’s residents to suggest project locations and partner in their implementation. This plan is based on several exciting conversations with city residents, businesses, and local organizations, and is the start of many more.

Capital Region Water worked closely with the city of Harrisburg and citizens throughout the planning process. A group of "community ambassadors," made up of representatives of the local community, provided input into the plan and, in the process, became well versed in green stormwater infrastructure. Capital Region Water took the community ambassadors to see built green stormwater infrastructure projects in Lancaster and Philadelphia, including planted corner bumpouts to collect street runoff, swales in parking lots, rain gardens next to schools, and man-made wetlands. Getting to see the Lancaster and Philadelphia projects in person gave the community ambassadors a better understanding of how this infrastructure works and how it could transform the look of Harrisburg.

 

Capital Region Water assembled a group of Community Ambassadors, representatives from neighborhoods across Harrisburg, who provided input into the plan and, in the process, became well-versed in green stormwater infrastructure challenges and techniques. Capital Region Water took the Community Ambassadors to see built green stormwater infrastructure projects in Lancaster and Philadelphia, which gave them a much better understanding of how this infrastructure works and how it could transform the look of Harrisburg. (Image and text via the Community Greening Plan)

The Community Greening Plan is written for both Capital Region Water and the community at large. While it includes a citywide analysis of where the easiest opportunities to implement green stormwater infrastructure are located based on physical conditions, it also recognizes that community-driven projects may take precedence over projects that are easy to engineer because they have built-in constituencies to advocate and care for them. The Community Greening Plan also provides illustrative examples of how green stormwater infrastructure can be incorporated into homes, neighborhoods, streets, alleys, schools, parks, public spaces, community centers, and vacant lots. The plan is designed to be accessible and inspiring to the community, sparking the collective imagination about how green stormwater infrastructure could be located in neighborhoods.