Presentation of the Cheverly Green Plan

On June 23, 2011, a summary of the proposed Cheverly Green Infrastructure Plan was presented to the Town Council. This was the second such presentation.  The presentation represents a plan still in progress.

Zoomable map.

Here are notes for the narrative accompanying the slide presentation.

Cheverly Green Infrastructure Plan (Slide 1).

The foundation for our modern human activities is referred to as infrastructure – our roads, bridges, sewer and water lines, for example.

People have come to realize that our natural areas also provide important services, and have coined the term green infrastructure to reflect that understanding.

By contrast, we call the engineered elements gray infrastructure. 

Green Infrastructure is an interconnected network of waterways, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitats and other natural areas that supports native species, maintains natural ecological processes, sustains air and water resources, and contributes to the health and quality of life for communities and people.

“Green infrastructure” can also refer to specific practices intended to protect the environment like green roofs and ecologically friendly stormwater management systems. These have in common a basic recognition that our built environment and our natural environment are interrelated.

The basic building blocks of a green infrastructure network are hubs and corridors. Hubs are ecologically significant natural areas that provide habitat for plant and animal life. Corridors connect hubs together to help animals and plant material  move between hubs.

Ecology talks about how living things, soil, water, and climate are interconnected and dependent on one another. We call a system made up of these elements an ecosystem. “Eco-” is from the Greek word  oikos, a house, and reminds us that the environment is not something “out there” and apart from us humans – it is our home.

Community Input (Slide 2).

Recognizing the advantages of a green infrastructure plan, Cheverly appointed a steering committee to develop one. Through a technical assistance grant, the committee obtained the invaluable help of the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service. The RTCA provided expertise and practical help. The plan is based on scientific data, best practices and strategies, and participation in county-level meetings. Most important is the input we got from the community events and workshops we organized. We spent a lot of time listening to our fellow Cheverly citizens.

Cheverly in Green and Gray (Slide 3).

Here’s how the green and the gray look on the current map of Cheverly.

Natural Areas Network (Slide 6).

When we look at Cheverly we see 5 natural areas and the beginnings of a system of corridors to connect them.

Cheverly’s Green Ribbons
(Slide 7).

We also see that woodlands make up the interiors of many Cheverly blocks. To preserve and protect these unique and valuable
natural treasures, we have proposed a voluntary “green ribbons” program.

Map (Slide 8). View a larger map.

A Green Infrastructure plan helps us think about the town’s needs as a whole. The natural areas network is a framework to help us decide what lands to protect in the future. Project ideas can be evaluated for how they fit into or extend the aims of the plan.

In the past and during the committee’s work the town and its citizens have undertaken acquisition of natural areas, mandatory recycling, electronics recycling, yard waste collection for mulching and the delivery of mulch, installation of rain cisterns at Town Hall, installation of a wind turbine at the Department of Public Works, street and residential tree plantings, restoration and educational work along Tributary 3 (Woodworth Park), the Community Vegetable Garden, Town Park restoration, and rain barrel and composting workshops. Individual projects such as those are now made part of a comprehensive plan - the Cheverly Green Infrastructure Plan. 

Trees, Plants, and Animal Life (Slide 11).

The plan includes recommendations focused on woodlands, plants, and animals; on water; and on the built environment. It includes recommendations for individuals, for community organizations, and for town government. There is a strong focus on educational outreach.

Key Recommendations – Trees, Plants, and Animal Life  (Slide 12).

It is almost unnecessary to talk to Cheverly citizens about the importance of trees, as most of us appreciate the aesthetic and practical benefits of tree cover along the streets and in our yards. Yet our tree canopy has been decreasing before our eyes as older trees die or are cut down.

Specific Benefits – Trees, Plants, and Animal Life (Slide 13).

Let’s think about our trees, shrubs and other plants as part of a system – an ecosystem – which supports life. Trees take in carbon dioxide and put out oxygen – our woods are the lungs of the system. Trees cool the air and reduce the impact of rainwater on the ground beneath. Their root systems absorb stormwater. Tall trees need protection from winds, so we need an understory – shrubs and shorter trees. Trees, shrubs, and other plants provide habitat for birds and other animal life. Among other benefits, animal life removes waste, produces decomposition, recycles nutrients, fixes nitrogen, and produces natural fertilizer. Coming full circle, birds make trees.

The plan promotes the use of native trees and plants. Native plants support native insects, which feed our baby birds. Without those native insects there would be none of the birds who need them. The fruit produced by native plants ripens when  it is most needed by adult fruit-eating birds. Exotic ornamental plants cannot provide these services – you may as well plant plastic. Invasive alien plants thrive at the expense of our natives – that is why the plan advises removing them.

Ecosystems work better when they are more diverse, when more native species can thrive. Biodiversity is essential to the existence of ecosystems, makes them more resilient, less susceptible to alien invaders, and increases their productivity. Among other things, it helps them produce more services for us humans. That is why the plan’s recommendations promote biodiversity through, for example, an increase in wildlife habitat, and corridors to encourage natural genetic exchange.

Water Resources (Slide 14).

The replacement of forests and wetlands with impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots, and buildings prevents natural infiltration of rainwater. Runoff rushes down these surfaces, taking with it pollutants and precious soil. Piped to our streams as rapidly as possible, its velocity erodes stream banks, and its heat kills aquatic species.

Recommendations - Water Resources (Slide 15).

We can use stormwater management methods that maximize onsite infiltration and retention of water by mimicking natural systems.

Instead of turning our backs on our streams – literally and figuratively – we can consider them as community assets to be restored and protected.

Land Use and the Built Environment (Slide 17).

The Land Use working group looked at property ownership and current uses of land in Cheverly. Its findings underpin the recommendations of the plan: the preservation and enhancement of existing natural hubs and their connection by corridors which are in as natural a state as possible.

Recommendations - Land Use and the Built Environment (Slide 18).

The hubs can be extended by acquisition of the Joslyn Street lots, the water tower lot, and the State Highway Administration cloverleaf which we now use as part of Woodworth Park.

The restoration of the 58th place lots abutting the Baltimore-Washington Parkway will aid in stormwater management and create a community amenity. 

Building development and redevelopment can follow green infrastructure principles, for example to achieve better stormwater retention.

Replacement of impervious parking lots with permeable materials, rain gardens, and even green roofs can be considered. Specific projects include redevelopment of commercial areas along Landover Road to increase permeable surface and decrease street entrances and exits. We may call this a gray/green approach.

“Green” building methods and materials are available for residential uses.

Specific Benefits - Land Use and the Built Environment (Slide 19).

A Cheverly Handbook would integrate in an easy-to-use source 1) homeowner guidelines providing detailed information on uses of permeable surface materials, recycled products and other environmentally friendly building materials; 2) information on Cheverly’s natural spaces; 3) the importance of native vegetation; 4) the role of rain gardens and other practices to reduce stormwater runoff; and 5) guidelines for business and institutional properties.

To Learn More (Slide 29).

Please take a look at the Cheverly Green Plan web site, where you will find more about Cheverly’s natural areas, green infrastructure ideas, and practical suggestions.