Category Archives: Ecosystem Services

Park City As Biodiverstiy Engine?

Park City As Biodiverstiy Engine?

June 3, 2013  Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle (as well as six other books), was the keynote speaker at CNU 21, the 21st annual conference of the Congress for the New Urbanism, held this year in Salt Lake City, Utah. CNU 21’s theme was Living Community and Louv’s task was to weave the connection between family, nature and community.

Louv made his case on the disconnect between children and nature with some of the data and anecdotes from his books. Most importlay, the remedy he proposes is “A NEW KIND OF CITY”  “Cities can become engines of biodiversity,” he proclaimed.

What if CNU sponsored an effort to create a “homegrown national park” along the lines of what author and entomologist Doug Tallamy calls for in his book Bringing Nature Home? Louv asked. Tallamy suggests that if people would turn their backyards into native habitat, we could provide so many more ecosystem services to address the big problems of our time:BackyardHabSign

  • Climate change
  • The crash in biodiversity
  • The disconnect between children & nature

Louv exhorted us to embrace the New Nature Movement  using as an example Bill McDonough’s design  for a hospital in Spain. In the design, one side is a green wall; another side is solid solar panels done in the colors of a butterfly that is about to go extinct in that region; the third side is a vertical farm that will feed people in the hospital. It’s an example of a building that not only conserves energy, but also produces human energy – through the food grown, and the view of plants and more natural habitat. What’s more, this hospital takes the next step: regeneration. The hospital’s bottom floor will become a “butterfly factory” where anyone who walks into the hospital may see one of the threatened butterflies of the region land on them. The hospital staff will reach out to every school, place of worship, business, and home and say, “You can do this, too. We can bring this butterfly back.”  So this building is not only conserving energy and producing human energy through biophilic design, it is, in a sense, giving birth – by helping a species survive. Conservation is no longer enough! We must regenerate nature–bring it back into our cities! proclaimed Louv.

Louv didn’t take questions at the plenary.  Instead it was suggested that we could ask them at the book-signing table–where a long line quickly formed.  I was delighted to see that sales were brisk as Louv covers topics that he could only mention in his talk in much more detail in the books .

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Because this land is in the public realm, it is a great place to start the movement towards a “homegrown national park.”

The next day, the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City were calling to me, so I joined the tour to Park City’s historic main street. During the time set aside for lunch, three of us encountered a pleasant park on our walk up Main Street. I asked my two companions what they thought of Richard Louv’s talk the night before. The Gen X one said it had introduced her to the important concept of “Nature Deficit Disorder” in both children and adults and that she would look for opportunities to help overcome this disorder in her future work.  HOORAY!

The other, a CNU Board member, said he thought the speech was not very insightful and was lacking in specifics on which to  move forward.  He felt that the lack of visuals (no PowerPoint or anything else) was a real negative.  The speech simply lacked specific examples of what Louv was talking about. “I see what you mean,” I said, “but I can provide one here.”

To the surprise, if not disgruntlement, of my companions, I used a “nature principle” framework to assess the park. According to Louv, studies show that parks with the highest biodiversity are the parks from which people benefit the most psychologically. How did this park rank?

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By failing to slow, cool and filter street runoff above,-the town was losing habitat value of this creek

There was a small creek running through the park, but you could see from the large storm drain in the street above that this creek could become a danger to children and pets whenever it received street runoff–because of both pollutants and flashiness. I imagined the hard rains two days earlier creating a mini flash flood through here. By failing to slow, cool and filter street runoff–perhaps in a series of lovely native plant rain gardens–the town was losing out on the habitat value that this creek could provide to many aquatic species.

 

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Rather than these alien ornamentals, Utah’s colorful and hardy native species could provide habitat for native insects, the base of the food chain, as well as education about natural heritage

Rather than utilize some of Utah’s fabulous high desert lupines, lomatiums, paintbrush, asters, daisies, phlox and other plant species to celebrate its historic natural as well as cultural heritage, the same old over-utilized plant species we see in Anywhere USA plus turf grass graced the park. Native plants would also be far better habitat for the base of the food chain,native insects, as well.

So, utilizing the guidepost of biodiversity, Old Town Neighborhood Park would not rank very well. But, because this land is in the public realm, it is a great place to start the movement towards a “homegrown national park.”  With a diverse landscape of natives and educational signage and perhaps classes, I could imagine this park helping to transform those Park City yards that are now filled with dandelions, garlic mustard and other invasives into an engine for biodiversity. So Park City, let’s get started!

Portland: A New Kind of City – Part III, Greenways

The deadline for comments on Portland’s Draft Comprehensive Plan is May 1. I hope you will endorse this Greenways comment at http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/60988 before that date     –or write your own. 

Portland planners have been talking about integrating fingers of green into the city for a couple of years now.  Then they gave the concept some teeth in the Portland Plan and now the draft Portland Comprehensive Plan with  the concepts of Habitat Corridors (pp4-6 and 4-7) and Greenways (pp 6-34 [sic] and 5-35).

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Tree Crew Leaders rally before each planting

I love planning, but it’s implementation that really lights my fire.  I haven’t figured out how to become a developer yet, so I plant trees with Friends of Trees. In fact, I’m a Tree Crew Leader in both its Neighborhood Tree and the Green Space Initiative planting programs.

I look forward to my Neighborhood Tree planting days with a bit of ambivalence.  I love helping neighbors get those big trees into the ground while getting to know each other better as neighbors. We also have conversations with people out in their yards or walking their dogs in the neighborhood–adding to the sense of community.  But I often cringe at the tree species selection that I am assigned to plant.  Rarely is there a native tree in my allotment of 9-12 trees–lots of Persian ironwood, Japanese snowbells, Chinese dogwoods and. . .you get the picture!  I’ve even come to celebrate when I get a Rocky Mountain Globe Maple because that’s a little closer to the Pacific Northwest.

Last Saturday, April 20, 2013, Friends of Trees had its Earthday planting on the NE Holman Greenway.  Homeowners along Holman had been offered FREE trees because their street had been designated a Greenway.  It was Earthday and  we were planting a Greenway, so I was hopeful that at last we might be planting some NATIVE street trees.  Several businesses had sent teams, so it was an opportunity to educate them.

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Part of my Friends of Trees crew planting a tree that will help transform this street.

I thought I recognized only one tree on the list as a native tree: Swamp white oak. Turns out, it’s native to the same region I am–the mid-Atlantic (and a bit further).  But it’s not native here–so, unfortunately, there were no natives.

We’ve  started to implement the Greenway concept before the Comp Plan passes. My point is, why aren’t Greenways green in more ways than bikes and stormwater. The draft Comp Plan mentions promoting multi-objective approaches. So let’s add one more objective to our Greenways. Let’s add wildlife habitat too.  My brief additions to the draft plan policy are in RED . Its already a great policy, so I did not have to change much!

Policy 5.26 Greenways. Create a citywide network of Greenways that provide distinctive and attractive pedestrian- and bike and wildlife-friendly green streets and trails that link centers, parks, schools, rivers, natural areas, and other key community destinations.

5.26.a. Strive for an integrated Greenway system that includes regional trails through natural areas and along Portland’s rivers, connected to green streets and other enhanced streets that provide connections to and through the city’s neighborhoods.

5.26.b. Prioritize multi-objective approaches that draw on and contribute to Portland’s pedestrian, bicycle, green street, wildlife corridor and parks and open space systems.  Recognize that to be multi-objective for wildlife, native plant species are required.

5.26.c Strive to re-landscape most Greenways with native plants both to better serve our native wildlife and to allow more children to experience nature where they live. Require plantings in the public right-of-way be native and strongly encourage native plantings on private property too.

The draft Plan commentary on Habitat Corridors suggests: Corridors to connect bird habitat on Mount Tablr and Clatsop Butte could be provided across 82nd Avenue and I-205 by planting large, primarily (sic) native trees, incorporating naturescaping into yards and other landscaped areas, and/or installing ecoroofs that have suitable native plants. This is an excellent suggestion but it needs to be applied more widely.

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There’s no reason this and all the bioswales along this Greenway couldn’t be planted in native plants and trees.

 

We’re already connecting Mt. Tabor to the Willamette River (Tabor to the River). Let’s connect the Willamette  River to the Columbia through North and Northeast Portland. Let’s connect Forest Park to the Willamette through Goose Hollow and Downtown and through Northwest and the Pearl.

The Greenways designated on the Comp Plan  map below (from p.4-6 and 5-34)–and a few others I would propose that are not yet on the map–are the logical places to make those connections. If we can do this, we will truly be creating a new kind of city–one that is more friendly to wildlife, to children–and to the rest of us too.

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The photos I’ve used to illustrate this article are stand-ins from earlier events I photographed. I will be adding the final ones as they become available. Meanwhile, I thought it was important to publish this before the May 1 deadline on comments.

Healthy Economy, Healthy Environment: Industry and the River

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Environmental Workshop Comp Plan Update at the Native American Center, Portland State University

I went to the session the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability had for the environmental community last night (April 3, 2013) on the current Working Draft of the new Comprehensive Plan. This session was held at the Native American Center on the Portland State University campus at the behest of two members of the Watershed and Environmental Health Professional Expert Group (PEG): Judy Bluehorse Skelton and Claire Carder. Judy gave a tour of the student-planted and maintained green roof atop the Center and someone else led one on the other green infrastructure on the campus.

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Environmental planner, Shannon Buono, and economic development planner, Steve Kountz, presenting the dilemma between industrial expansion and environmental protection.

At the session on “Healthy Economy, Healthy Environment”, I came to the conclusion that more of us who care about the environment need to be

  1. praising manufacturers, like Toyota, who are willing to change their ways to restore the environment at their facility along the river (Please see my blog on Toyota.);
  2. pushing the City to recruit more companies like Toyota and giving them suggestions from our own reading and research;
  3. exposing industrialists in North Portland who are unwilling to work towards creating a healthy environment along with the jobs they tout;
  4. asking lots of questions about proposed tax breaks for brownfield redevelopment and coming up with acceptable solutions.
  5. supporting North Portland residents who are stewarding and restoring parks such as Pier Park   that can become part of a wildlife connectivity corridor if linked to other natural areas.

I sent planners links to two recent articles by Richard Florida and Neal Peirce exploring “The Uselessness of Tax Incentives for Economic Development”. Both were based on a New York Times in-depth series on the topic. I already got a response from planner Steve Kountz distinguishing tax breaks for land from the tax breaks for business that the NYT series was largely about.  I hope that he will put that response below in the comments.

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Image highlighting the location of most of Portland’s industrial lands–along the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.

Otherwise, we will see the continued erosion of what greenspace is left at the confluence of TWO great rivers–the Columbia and the Willamette–an area that is critically important to wildlife. Already, planners propose to take at least a portion of 800 acres of golf courses and most of West Hayden Island into industrial land. Many of us said we preferred that the City push the redevelopment of vacant brownfields first, but the difficulty Steve pointed out was cost. He encouraged us to read the City’s Brownfield Assessment report, but it seems the solutions boil down to tax incentives. Most of the group were wary about those as well.

Other solutions for wildlife that were discussed were green or ecoroofs  atop factories and other facilities and bioswales  along parking lots and roads. In its North Reach River Plan, the City has proposed the Willamette Greenway Plan be extended through the industrial corridor, but industry pushed back (see Toyota link above).

Please use this link to send the City your own comments. They are due by May 1,2013 but don’t delay until then.  Do it today!

Children and Nature Belong Downtown

March 30, 2013   This post was first  published on the Children & Nature Network Blog. It’s editor, Richard Louv, attempted to make it more interesting for his international audience with his edits. Here, I want to re-capture some of my original thoughts.

Each year at the end of August, the Oregon Symphony holds a free concert at the south end of Portland’s downtown Tom McCall Waterfront Park on the Willamette River. Families come with picnic supper, blankets and lawn chairs. I’ve noticed that the kids who are old enough for a little independence make a beeline for the wildest part of the waterfront—a shore with driftwood, rocks and boulders.

Older kids make a beeline for this remnant downtown beach during concerts and festivals.

Older kids make a beeline for this remnant beach during concerts and festivals at “The Bowl”–the only place where the Willamette River is accessible in downtown Portland.

Climbing over the tree limbs and rocks is rough going. But the kids are unfazed. That’s where they want to be.

My Portland Downtown Neighborhood Association has been talking about the need for more families in downtown Portland. Now that developers are finding financing to build again, we are seeing more proposals for apartments downtown. Members of our association would like to see some of those apartments be appropriate for families — in size, in design and in price.

Families with children who might consider moving downtown are often deterred by the lack of affordable housing and the absence of a downtown public elementary school. However, there’s another reason that families with children often avoid living downtown in America’s cities: the need for more wild in downtown to attract those families who escaped the city for the “wide open spaces” of the suburbs.

Except for “The Bowl”, most of Portland’s central city waterfront is armored with a seawall—like many river cities, with good reason. When the Willamette was at severe flood stage as it was in 1996, we had to throw up sandbags so that the first few blocks of downtown wouldn’t flood — as they did historically. The Portland Daily Journal of Commerce has some fun photos of people canoeing along Third Ave and other parts of downtown.

As a result of those seawalls, the river at normal flow appears to be about 25 feet to the surface of the water. So how do we make the riverfront more attractive to families who want to touch nature? Portland’s new Working Draft Comprehensive Plan encourages more beaches along the waterfront. One suggested policy for the Willamette River Watershed is: “Promote rehabilitation of riverbank sections that have been significantly altered because of development to create more natural riverbank conditions.”

With the intention to attract both families and fish downtown, we could do much to make “The Bowl” more natural. But to address other parts of the downtown waterfront–-and still avoid flooding–-we may need to adapt Chicago’s invention of a Fish Hotel and stairs down to this structure created out of plants to give fish resting and hiding places.

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Hundreds of children already use the downtown area known as South Park Blocks—largely on the way to the Performing Arts Center and museums. They come by bus from other neighborhoods.

Let’s look at what else downtowns, particularly Portland’s, could do to meet children’s need for wild in their lives. Why not rethink our parks and our other public spaces downtown? Portland is lucky enough to have both a linear waterfront park and the Park Blocks, an interior corridor, originally intended as a firebreak, that extend most of the length of our downtown. Could these be re-conceived as wildlife and children’s corridors?

Portland’s early founders were wise enough to leave undeveloped blocks planted with trees (mostly American elms), running from north-to-south for twelve blocks of central westside Portland. Ultimately, these blocks, planted with native species, could become part of something much larger, along the lines of Doug Tallamy’s idea for a “Homegrown National Park.

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Green (or Eco) Roofs, such as this one on Portland Central Library could be added to all buildings that occupy what is known as the Park Blocks corridor. This could help to create north-south connectivity throughout central westside Portland.

Tallamy recommends that cities and neighborhoods across the country replace alien ornamentals with native plants—and hence attract more species of native wildlife. Many existing buildings could install green roofs and green walls with native plants to attract our native insects, the base of the food chain.

Portland might also make the streets along the Park Blocks into  “green streets.”  These streets would utilize native plants and trees and porous pavement to filter storm water from the streets and sidewalks. They would prioritize the pedestrian and the bicyclist in their design and allow for a number of sidewalk cafés. Of course they would provide a lane for business deliveries by motor vehicle and bike, perhaps limited to certain hours.

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Sidewalk cafes such as this one at SW Salmon & Park would also be encouraged in our children and wildlife corridors.

Finally, we need a contiguous green west-east corridor to connect Portland’s premier wildlife corridor, Forest Park to the river.  I nominate SW Salmon Street/Park Place, my usual path to get to Washington and Forest Park. We could give property owners incentives to turn their existing landscapes into native habitat and to green their existing roofs, walls, parking lots and driveways. We could create “Nature Play” pocket parks along the way and join this whole area into the Home-Grown National Park too. Scroll through the map I created in Google Maps  to see the entire length of the Park Blocks–North and South–and the suggested link from Washington Park to the river.

The Salmon/Park Place corridor could become a “Greenway” (a 20 mph street that prioritizes active transportation and filters stormwater) utilizing NATIVE trees, shrubs and plants and other technologies such as porous pavement. Parking could still be allowed on these streets as it protects pedestrians and helps slow the street.

In an era of cutbacks, how will we pay for a new green infrastructure that could allow our children to live downtown and have nature too? Annie Donovan who serves as Senior Policy Advisor for New Financial Instruments at the White House Council on Environmental Quality presents some ideas in her Forbes 1/22/13 article Smart Communities will Build Green Infrastructure. She writes: “For impact investors, green infrastructure is an emerging market. Investing in it will help build economically sustainable communities that are also resilient in the face of change.”

Doubtless, some of the empty-nesters who have moved into the condo buildings in central cities throughout the US would like to be impact investors in this arena. Let’s make that opportunity possible by creating the vision for our children — one that acknowledges the benefits of nature along with all the other rich amenities of our downtowns.

One last point.  Working Draft 1 of the Portland Comprehensive Plan Update could lead to a sea change in the way we redevelop cities. Children & Nature advocates would do well to take advantage of some of the most innovative parts in it, such as the focus on habitat, the “design with nature” approach, and the “greenways” concept. It’s a forward-looking document that encourages bold thinking — and not just for Portland.  Planners and advocates elsewhere can push their cities to adapt some of its best ideas as their own.

And that will be good news for children, families, community and nature.

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AFTERTHOUGHTS

The images below help to further define the setting for those unfamiliar with Portland’s South Park Blocks and “lost park blocks.” I also provide an example from the Comp Plan: its definition of Greenways.

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Portland’s founders left Park Blocks, but some were lost to development. The Arlington Club in the background, sits in one of those lost Park Blocks. Admittance to this club is restricted to Portland’s 1%–the kind of people who should be able to fund the proposed green infrastructure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The buildings on the left side of this block sit in what was originally intended as Park Blocks. With time, they could revert back, but meanwhile, they should be made as wildlife-friendly and child-friendly as possible–via green roofs, green walls, wider sidewalks, street trees and other green street technologies.

Greenways are defined in the glossary of Working Draft 1 of the Portland Comprehensive Plan Update as: A system of accessible pedestrian- and bike-friendly green streets and trails that link neighborhood centers, parks, schools, natural areas, and other key community destinations. The city Greenways system is a prioritized subset of pedestrian and bicycle connections that makes use of opportunities for multi-objective, distinctive design approaches that draw on and contribute to Portland’s pedestrian, bicycle, green street, and parks and open space systems.

Portland: A New Kind of City II

In Portland: A New Kind of City I, I argued that if Portland is to achieve some of its other policies in the Watershed Health and Environment chapter of Working Draft 1, Portland Comprehensive Plan, policies such as Biodiversity and Habitat Corridors, it is important for any policy on Vegetation to stress the importance of NATIVE vegetation–in part, because native species of insects, the base of the food chain, need native plants to survive.

I want to now draw your attention to policies under the “Design With Nature” section of the Urban Design and Development chapter–one of the sections with the greatest potential to lead to transformational design and a new kind of city.

Policy 5.45 Greening the built environment. Encourage the incorporation and preservation of large healthy trees, native trees, and other vegetation in development. 5.45.a. Prioritize integrating natural elements and systems, including trees, green spaces, and vegetated stormwater management systems, into centers. 

Change Policy 5.45 and 5.45.a. to:  5.45 Encourage the preservation of existing large healthy trees and encourage the incorporation of native trees and other native vegetation into development.  5.45.a. Prioritize integrating natural elements and systems, including native trees, natural areas, and stormwater management systems utilizing native vegetation into centers.

Invasive English ivy and Himalayan blackberry growing along the Willamette River in February. Green is not always "green"!

Invasive English ivy and Himalayan blackberry growing along the Willamette River in February this content. Green is not always “green”!

My further comments on Policy 5.45: “Greening the built environment” should make clear that green is not always “green”. We have a number of trees and vegetation that actually threaten watershed health and community livability rather than benefit it.  This policy needs to be more explicit on what is green.

I realize that with global warming, plant zones are changing. That doesn’t mean that we should be welcoming more alien ornamentals from all over the world. Rather, we might monitor the robustness of our native species and possibly look to bring in more species from areas of southern Oregon or northern California. 

Policy 5.46 Commentary: (Policies in the Working Draft have commentaries on the left pages) Habitat and wildlife‐friendly design, promotes development that integrates green infrastructure, habitat‐and bird‐friendly design, and the use of appropriate, NON-INVASIVE PLANTS (emphasis mine) for pollinators. . .

Change to:  Habitat and wildlife‐friendly design, promotes development that integrates green infrastructure, habitat‐and bird‐friendly design,and the use of native plants for pollinators and other native wildlife species.

My comments on Policy 5.46 Commentary: In Bringing Nature Home, Doug Tallamy cites numerous

Photo by Clay RuthThe larvae of native insects need native plants to survive.

Photo by Clay Ruth
The larvae of native insects need native plants to survive.

scientific studies (including his own) to show that even if some of our adult native insect species can use alien ornamental plants, their larvae cannot. Insects need NATIVE plant species to procreate the web of life. Since our native insects are the base of the food chain for birds and many other species of wildlife, they need native plants too. You need to define habitat, at least in part, as native vegetation—in both the commentary and the policies.

Policy 5.46. Habitat and wildlife-friendly design. Encourage habitat and wildlife-friendly neighborhood, site, and building design.

. . . 5.46.b. Encourage the incorporation of habitat into landscaping, sustainable stormwater facilities, and other features of the built environment.

Change 5.46.b to:  In order to provide habitat, encourage the incorporation native vegetation into landscaping, sustainable stormwater facilities, and other features of the built environment.

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Louv points out that all plants are not the same in their ability to support food webs.

I’ll rest my comments on Policy 5.46 with a quote from Richard Louv in his book The Nature Principle:

All plants are not the same.  Unfortunately, all plants are not equal in their ability to support food webs.  Food webs develop locally over thousands of generations, with each member of the web adapting to the particular traits of the other members of the web.

I also request that Portland add a definition of habitat in the Glossary that includes native vegetation. 

I’m really not a one horse planner.  I really care about so many other aspects of urban design and development. But I feel that it is so vitally important that Portland planners and designers recognize the importance of native vegetation in achieving the City’s  goals. Unfortunately, such recognition does not appear to be the case at present.  The landscape features along central Portland’s portion of the Willamette River are currently filled with alien ornamentals and its sustainable storm water facilities continue to be filled with them too. Portland has many LEED-rated buildings, but native plants are rare in their landscapes as well. And yet this Comprehensive Plan foresees far more landscape integrated into our built environment.  It is critical to get the policy right and work with landscape architectural professionals and their schools so that we’ll have people competent to implement the policy.

I’ll have more comments on other sections of Working Draft 1, but for now I want to go out and promote this exciting document and get YOU to comment too! Thanks for doing such a great job on so many fronts, Portland planners!

Portland: A New Kind of City I

. . . As of 2008, more people now live in cities than in the countryside, worldwide. This is a huge moment in human history. This means one of two things: either human connection to nature will continue to disintegrate, or this will lead to the beginning of a new kind of city, one with new kinds of workplaces and homes that actually connect people to nature.         Richard Louv, Leaf Litter, Winter Solstice 2012

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The Portland Comp Plan Working Draft 1 released in January, 2013 begins to envision that new kind of city for this “huge moment in history.” It includes a transportation network that aspires to integrate nature into neighborhoods through civic corridors, neighborhood greenways and habitat connections. By doing that it seeks to: 1) increase people’s access to the outdoors, 2) provide corridors for wildlife movement, and 3) catch and treat stormwater.Its Watershed Health and the Environment chapter encourages the protection/enhancement of natural systems and their role in promoting public health—as you might expect from a chapter with that heading. However the emphasis on “designing with nature” in both its Design and Development chapter and its Transportation chapter is what really sets this plan apart and makes it transformational. It puts Portland ahead of the curve in creating Louv’s new kind of city!

The fact that we have such wise and forward-thinking planners and advisory groups to create such a draft plan does NOT mean that the work is over, however.  The devil is in the details!  So, I hope that you will review those details, attend a community workshop or two, and add your thoughts. Below, I’m sharing some of my own comments on the Comp Plan Working Draft 1 in hopes that you will voice your support for them as well as develop your own points.

I was excited to see the draft Comp Plan promise (p,14) “encouraging building and site designs that have native plants and more permeable surfaces and mimic nature, so that pollutants stay out of rivers and streams.” Only once in the actual policies, however, is there any mention of native vegetation. And that one citation is followed by an exception big enough to let an area that could be a haven for more native wildlife—the west side of the Willamette River from the Steel to the Ross Island Bridges—stand as is: largely bereft of native vegetation.

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It’s difficult to find native plants along the west side of the Willamette River from Steel Bridge to Ross Island Bridge

Policy 4.3 Vegetation. Protect, enhance and restore native AND OTHER BENEFICIAL (emphasis mine) vegetation in riparian corridors, wetlands, floodplains and upland areas.

Change to:

Policy 4.3 Vegetation. Protect, enhance and restore native vegetation throughout the landscape.

4.3a. Riparian Corridors, Wetlands, And Floodplains:  Protect, enhance and restore native vegetation in critical wildlife areas such as riparian corridors, wetlands, and floodplains.

4.3b. Upland Areas:  Protect and enhance native and other beneficial tree species. Restore the landscape with diverse native species including trees, shrubs and wildflowers.

My further comments on Policy 4.3: Since riparian corridors, wetlands, and floodplains are the most critical areas for wildlife they are the most important to be restored to predominantly native plants.  What we plant from here on out along our rivers, streams and wetlands should be native check over here. Remove “and other beneficial” vegetation from the policy.

Chair of the Department of Entomology at the University of Delaware, Douglas Tallamy, in his book Bringing Nature Home argues that if alien species were providing as many ecosystem services in their new homes as they did where they evolved, they would support about the same number of insect species in both areas—but they do not. He states:

For an alien species to contribute to the ecosystem it has invaded, it must interact with the other species in that ecosystem in the same ways that the species it has displaced interacted. . . This contribution is most likely when species have evolved together over long periods of time.

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Tallamy’s slide show at Oregon Community Trees conference left community foresters committed to using native trees.

Upland areas could be separate. I would not argue against enhancing the lives of some non-invasive, non-native trees (such as our large old elms) via treatment. I’m not yet ready to maintain that all of the street trees the city plants should be native—only that many, many more of them should be. Tallamy keynoted an Oregon Community Trees conference last year where he made the same point I’m making–as well as a lasting impression on attendees involved with community trees. “When I talk about the value of biodiversity, he said, I am talking about a natural resource that is critical to our long-term persistence in North America.”

 The Comp Plan needs to stress the need to plant more NATIVE trees and plants in upland areas too.  See my next blog, Portland: A New Kind of City II  for further comments on Working Draft 1 of the Portland Comp Plan.

Bringing the Wild Back to the City – Part 2

As I explained in Part 1 of Bringing the Wild Back to the City, I’m trying to take members of the built environment community to the wild to show them how nature does things in ways that are often more  efficient, elegant and pleasing to the eye than what we design.  Last week, I was presented with an opportunity to put this knowledge into action.  At a meeting on Portland’s NE Quadrant Plan last week, as I picked up the written comments of Audubon Society of Portland’s Conservation Director, Bob Sallinger, I was asked if I wanted to testify myself.  At first, I declined, but after reading Bob’s comments, I was inspired to expand upon them.

Testimony to the NE Quadrant, Central City 2035 Stakeholders Advisory Committee –       June 28, 2012

I’m testifying to endorse and expand upon the comments of Bob Sallinger (Audubon Society of Portland) on the SAC draft NE Quadrant Plan.  I have several relevant affiliations, but I’m testifying only on behalf of myself and my Woman Business Enterprise, PlanGreen.  I’m also an Audubon member who once played a role on its Conservation Committee.  My comments are all aimed at increasing the ecosystem services of our landscapes, letting nature help us create infrastructure that is sustainable, efficient and aesthetically appealing. What’s in black, bold italic are Sallinger’s points.  The rest is my expansion.

1. Protect undeveloped river banks and riparian buffers and add strong language to restore developed banks when redevelopment occurs.  When I was writing an article for Urban Land on Portland as a model for waterfront redevelopment, one of the most impressive tools I downloaded was the Willamette Riverbank Design Notebook (done by a team chaired by Mike Abbaté, now Director of Portland Parks). I was thrilled to see a city trying to make room for other species–even in its most urban and urbanizing areas. This is a mark of true wisdom.  Please reference and utilize this unique document during implementation phase.

2. Include specific targets for ecoroofs and other green infrastructure from the watershed plan.  To this I would add that to truly follow through on Portland’s world class Watershed Management Plan, any ecoroofs, bioswales, raingardens, green walls,, parks, etc., need to use the landscape to provide far greater ecosystem services than those extant today.  If we use NATIVE plant communities rather than the incipient invasive species, such as Nandina, that are so greatly overused in bioswales on Portland’s green streets today, we will provide habitat for the base of the food chain, our native insects.  Insects are so important, not only for all the jobs they do–like pollination and detritus decomposition–but as food for the birds that provide us with additional services in keeping a balanced urban ecosystem–in addition to the beauty and delight that they provide us.

3. Reference the tree targets in the Urban Forestry Plan.  Again, I believe that much more effort should be put to planting NATIVE trees.  If sidewalk uplift is a potential problem, then utilize a technology such as Deep Root that will prevent it. As a Tree Crew Leader for Friends of Trees, I always compliment a homeowner who has chosen a native tree.  Invariably, the other homeowners on my crew say “We would have chosen native too, if we had known.”  Recent Oregon Community Trees keynote speaker, Doug Tallamy, told the Chicago Tribune that while Portland is lush and beautiful, it is DEAD.  That’s because the overwhelming majority of our vegetation is non-native and the larvae of our native insects need native plants to complete their cycle into adults.

4.  Encourage bird-friendly building design utilizing the “Resource Guide for Birdfriendly Building Design” recently published by Audubon, along with the City and USFWS.

Thank you so much for your time.  And by the way, I want to say that as someone who lives downtown and walks and bikes nearly everywhere I go, I couldn’t disagree more with the last speaker (Terry Parker) who called for increasing auto capacity to the level that you increase the density.  That is definitely not needed and, in fact, counterproductive.
Sincerely,
Mary Vogel

Bringing The Wild Back To The City

Oregon Community Trees recent keynote speaker Dr. Doug Tallamy says that while Portland is lush and beautiful, it is DEAD!  Portland has so few insects because most of the vegetation in the city is non-native and the native insects, that are the base of the food chain, need native plants to reproduce!

Enthusiastic participants – Trapper Creek Wilderness

I lead field trips to the wild on weekends that focus on native plant and wildlife communities—helping people appreciate them for their intrinsic beauty and wonder and also for the ecosystems services they provide.  I ask folks who sign up to help me make the trips as participatory as possible by doing a bit of research on the natural or cultural history of the region to share with the group. Some do!  The trips provide a good way to renew the body, rejuvenate the spirit and make new friends.

I’m trying to recruit more people on my trips who will come back to the city and incorporate what they discover into our overall green infrastructure: green streets, green roofs, green walls, green landscapes and green buildings as well as designs for walkable neighborhoods and great urbanism region-wide. So I’d especially like help in getting word out to landscape architects, landscape suppliers and builders.  To really be effective its crucial to reach all parts of the built environment community: planners, designers, developers, financiers, suppliers and builders.

I schedule my trips through Portland-Vancouver Sierra Club Outings Meetup (free to join) because Sierra Club offers leader training, first aid and insurance.  And Sierra Club has advocated for the things I care about since 1892.  The trips are also free, though Sierra Club asks that you consider a voluntary $2-3 donation towards its leader training. I help people explore and appreciate ancient (aka old growth) forests; showy wildflower meadows and their more modest cousins under the forest canopy; wild rivers and streams; and mountain lakes with wetlands. In winter, I look for places with good snow for XC skiing. If I have to pick a favorite, it’s the west side Cascades. But I plan to include some trips to the east side of the Cascades and the Oregon Coast as well.

Not all of my trips are to wilderness areas (limited to 12), but the ones that are sometimes fill up fast.   Identify yourself as a Built Environment Professional in your profile when you sign up. If I can, I’ll give you priority for a spot on the trips. (People who have signed up, drop off at the last minute–or they don’t show up at all! So I’ll promise that you won’t be turned away if you have put yourself on the waiting list.)

I myself am an urban planner who wants to preserve the wild by bringing more of what people appreciate there back to the city to help make our cities and towns more livable, healthy, climate-friendly and resilient.  I strive to create places that people don’t feel the need to escape.  I hope you will join me in enjoying and protecting the wild—and bringing more of it back to the city.  Urbanism and nature can co-exist.  In fact, if our species is to survive they must!

Mary Vogel
PlanGreen

Sustainability experts embrace ‘new urbanism’ – Portland Business Journal

There are a few inaccuracies in this story in Portland Business Journal that I point out below, but it is still great to have it.  We’re excited to be in one of the first issues of their Sustainable Business Oregon.  Please go to the original site so you can add your own comments!

http://www.sustainablebusinessoregon.com/articles/2010/03/sustainability_experts_embrace_new_urbanism.html

Sustainability experts embrace ‘new urbanism’

by Andy Giegerich

Mary Vogel, PlanGreen

Three Portland sustainable development consultants are among the first in the nation to receive a new accreditation for sustainable urban planning from the Chicago-based Congress for New Urbanism.

The three local recipients, Mary Vogel of PlanGreen, Michael Mehaffy of Structura Naturalis Inc., and Laurence Qamar of Laurence Qamar Architecture and Town Planning Co., are all practitioners of the new urbanist style of neighborhood planning, where the goal is to create sustainable, walkable neighborhoods.

The CNU’s exam-based accreditation program, designed in collaboration with the University of Miami, is designed for urban planning professionals working within a new sustainable neighborhood development standard called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development, or LEED-ND.

The concept essentially calls for services, jobs and residences to remain as close together as possible.

“New urbanism is about revitalizing city centers, or the cores of Main Street America,” said Qamar, a Lake Oswego-based architect. “It can also start with a suburban model, but it promotes how new development and growth should happen all the way down to the neighborhood level.”

Put another way, “There are little towns or neighborhoods where you just want to get out and walk, and feel and touch the place,” said Vogel. “New urbanism tries to achieve that sense of place and community those places tend to have.”

Vogel owns PlanGreen, a Portland ecosystems company that devises water filtration and air purification strategies. Vogel helps developers include such contingencies in their neighborhood projects.

Qamar oversaw sustainability touches on such area projects as Fairview Village and Gresham Station.

Mehaffy, owns Structura Naturalis Inc., a Lake Oswego consultancy that’s advised governments and private companies on sustainable urban development methods. He’s best known for developing Hillsboro’s Orenco Station, home to condos, several upscale shops and accessible to Portland’s light rail line. He also developed Salem’s Pringle Creek project.

The Portland planners are three of the 170 newly certified neighborhood LEED advocates nationwide.

Vogel primarily aims to incorporate more nature components in urban designs. She advises clients on redirecting stormwater so that it recharges streams and rivers, relieving burdens from existing sewer systems, collecting more water from evapotranspiration (or water both on the earth’s surface and within plants that’s evaporated) and providing habitats for native pollinators.

Like other new urbanism champions, Vogel believes the philosophy can effectively limit auto use.

“If a community is really walkable, you don’t want to be in a car,” said Vogel, a Portland newcomer who’s advised Vancouver, Wash., officials on Highway 99 sustainability-oriented redesigns. “I truly believe it’s the wave of the future. It’s the preference of younger populations because of the convergence of peak oil and climate change.”

Mehaffy noted that new urbanism doesn’t seek to eliminate car use altogether.

“It doesn’t mean we get everyone out of cars, it just means we have more cohesion, and we think more about projects that we put in remote areas,” he said. “If you look at the (most recent) recession, it was actually triggered in the far-out suburbs of the U.S.”

Mehaffy’s Orenco “town center” project is considered a solid new urbanism venture because it’s accessible by light rail. Some 25,000 Orenco-area residents and others board trains at the center’s station each day.

Qamar simply hopes new urbanism will inspire developers and builders to examine their work more holistically. Portland’s 2040 plan, overseen by the Metro regional government, laid out where regional centers, such as in downtown Gresham, can take shape. But he’s concerned that improving urban sprawl on such streets as 82nd Avenue, on Portland’s east side, might be too difficult.

Such areas could benefit from city officials’ efforts to incorporate “20-minute” neighborhood concepts into the Portland Plan. The proposals, which Portland’s planning department is developing, could provide a blueprint for growth over the next several decades.

“Ideally, there are ways to rework shopping centers and office parks and brownfields and knit together these neighborhoods in ways that make for more functioning and coherent communities,” he said. “But to get there, you have to make ways for neighbors to walk to their daily needs.”

Vogel, Qamar and Mehaffy have started their own chapter for local new urbanism proponents. The Cascadia CNU chapter, which includes branches in Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., counts 100 members.

Comments

Thanks Andy and other friends at PBJ! We reallly appreciate the attention. There are a few mis-statements or misinterpretations in the article that Mehaffy, Qamar and I feel are important to clear up:
1. To say the “new urbanist style of neighborhood planning” is misleading. We have a set of principles that includes designing neighborhoods so that all residents can meet their basic needs on foot (assuming they can walk). We also believe that streets should be designed for all users, not just automobile drivers, so we design streets that are delightful to pedestrians and we are beginning to design streets that manage their own stormwater. But there is no new urbanist style.
2. Michael Mehaffy did not develop either Orenco Station or Pringle Creek. He was Project Manager for developer PacWest on Orenco and he has done work for the developer of Pringle Creek.
3. Mehaffy said that 25,000 cars drive on Cornell Road daily, and only about 5,000 people board at Orenco Station daily.
4. Laurence Qamar is based in Portland, not Lake Oswego.
3. To say that “Qamar oversaw sustainability touches on such area projects as Fairview Village and Gresham Station” perhaps gives the wrong impression. He did help make them more pleasant places to walk, but he didn’t add the kind of thing people usually think of as sustainability touches: green roofs, solar collectors, daylighting skylights, rain gardens, etc.
4. None of us feel “that improving urban sprawl on such streets as 82nd Avenue, on Portland’s east side, might be too difficult”. In fact, we have access to a “Sprawl Repair” tool kit that could help to greatly improve those places.
5. Each of us signed the petition list to start a CNU chapter in the PNW, but so did a number of our colleagues. So, to say that they “started their own chapter” may be misleading.
6. Vogel is not really “a Portland newcomer.” I have lived only one year DOWNTOWN, but I’ve lived about 6 years in other SW Portland neighborhoods (Collins View, Marshall Park, Hillsdale) and even a stint in Washington County. I’ve lived in Oregon for nearly 20 years and I know its native plants better than most native human residents. Oh, and I’m a Friends of Trees Crew Leader in Portland’s east side neighborhoods, so I know them quite well as well.
7. I usually describe my business as helping to bring ecosystems services to excellent urban design, but I was a bit surprised to see it characterized as “devises water filtration and air purification strategies.” I guess you could say it that way!

Mary Vogel, CNU-A
PlanGreen
Putting Ecosystem Services into Excellent Urban Design
A Woman Business Enterprise in Oregon

503-245-7858
mary@plangreen.net
http://www.plangreen.net

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