Green Stormwater Management in Roxbury

How can neighborhoods transform themselves into “green zones”? What can we do in Roxbury to support the ecological integrity of the region, while at the same time meet needs of local residents and enhance quality of life? In other words, how can we put justainability into action in our communities? These were among the questions that the first cohort of the Practical Visionaries Workshop pursued in spring 2011. One team of 11 graduate students and community practitioners from the Workshop focused on stormwater management as one way to green and justainable in Roxbury. They produced a 69-page guide to Green Stormwater Management in the Blue Hill Avenue Triangle Area.

The team focused on this area of Roxbury because it was where two of the Workshop’s community partners – Youthbuild Boston and Nuestra Comunidad – were already working collaboratively to green housing and turn vacant lots into gardens. They wanted to explore ways they could go further in greening the neighborhood beyond just the housing. While one part of the project team focused on the environmental and natural resource impacts of stormwater, a second group explored ways that local groups and residents could be engaged in the process. In fact, the guide was put together as a tool for these groups to learn about the issue and get involved.

The water that runs off our streets into the drains and into Boston Harbor is a major source of pollution. Building and maintaining centralized sewage systems is very costly, which is one reason that there is much focus on decentralized methods such as rain gardens, green rooves, and rain barrels. Increasing the amount of area on our streets and yards where water can seep into the groundwater decreases the amount that goes into the sewer system. These methods are also known as low impact development (LID).

The guide explains the problems caused by inadequate and aging sewer systems as well as the benefits of green stormwater management. Among the benefits are reducing flooding in basements, beautification with more greenspace, job opportunities in constructing green stormwater infrastructure, and decreasing the public cost of stormwater management. The guide also includes a survey of community assets, methods for community engagement, a framework and GIS analysis for assessing the potential for vacant lots to host storm water gardens, and funding sources.

Congratulations to this team for conceiving and implementing this project. Team members included: Zach Arnold, Kalila Barnett, Michael Chavez, Ronak Davé, Sarah Howard-McHugh, Ninya Loeppky, Molly McCullagh, Alex Papali, Jessie Partridge, Wilnelia Rivera, and Marcus Rozbitsky.

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Distinguished Senior Lecturer and Director of Master of Public Policy and Community Practice, Tufts University Department of Urban & Environmental Policy and Planning

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