Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Havre de Grace Goes Green

By Joshua Marx,
The Havre de Grace Green Team is pushing hard to garner community support from residents in its quest for the city to gain recognition as a Sustainable Maryland Certified municipality.  Two members of the Green Team, President Kirk Smith and Secretary Samantha Groff, believe that becoming certified would not only benefit the quality-of-life for HdG residents, but would also pave the way towards a long-term sustainable future for the city as well as statewide recognition for improving Maryland livability.  

“Sustainable Maryland Certification opens up a whole different avenue of training for everyone from city leaders to everyday citizens on the values of being green, from cost saving to environmental stewardship,” says Kirk Smith, president of the Havre de Grace Green Team.  “It’s not just about living more ‘green’, says Mr. Smith, “Sustainable Maryland is about saving money.”

For the past four years, the HdG Green Team has been laying a foundation for this certification process, working with local community leaders to forge strong partnerships, and has already made great strides in preparing the city for certification.  On June 6th, 2016, Mayor William T. Martin and Director of Administration Patrick Sypolt signed Resolution 2016-07 into effect, which puts the gears of official Maryland certification in motion, further bolstering the efforts of the Green Team and, more importantly, fulfilled a key step in obtaining certification.  When Havre de Grace becomes certified, it would become only the second municipality in Harford County to achieve such recognition, helping it to stand out as a model community for the present as well as future citizens of the county.  

While current progress would have individuals believe that these pushes towards sustainability are relatively recent, the truth is that the Green Team has been working hard behind the scenes for a number of years to bring Havre de Grace to where it is today and in position to receive certification. Since its founding in 2012, the Green Team has established a thriving community garden that serves any interested HdG residents.  

The existence of a Green Team itself as well as a community garden are two key elements of any municipality gaining certification.  There are, in fact, several actions a community must take in order to be fully certified by the state of Maryland.   

With a Green Team in place and a resolution on the books, the next vital step in getting Havre de Grace recognized is to review, plan, and implement the next phase of the action plan for a Sustainable Maryland community.  The full list of action plan items, which can be viewed here, highlight eight areas of improvement for communities to achieve.

The Green Team has spearheaded efforts most recently in upgrading Natural Resources management in Havre de Grace.  Two key steps needed in strengthening this component of the action plan are helping to develop a Stormwater Management system as well as Watershed Stewardship.  

In conjunction with DPW, the Green Team is already putting necessary systems in place to not only have a program for stormwater management, but also appoint a coordinator to oversee operations once the system becomes adopted.  

The second component already being worked on with DPW is a Watershed Stewardship program. This is a vital step in any community's restoration efforts to create “sustainable local water quality and habitant improvements", according to the Sustainable Maryland website that details Watershed Stewardship.  The description goes on to explain the economic benefits for the community, stating that improving the local watershed is a surefire way to reduce upkeep costs for local municipalities, stating that investing improving watershed quality will benefit the bottom line by "reducing municipal investment in watershed protection and restoration costs."

Following these components would be the review and completion from the other five areas: Energy, Greenhouse Gas, Health and Wellness, Local Economies, and Planning and Land Use.  Getting certified in these areas, Mr. Smith suggests, “opens up a whole new stream of resources from the governor” in the form of grants the city could apply for.  “Grants,” Smith tacked on, “could bring a lot of grant revenue to the city that could help with many different operations within the city.”  

The two action steps the city has already taken highlight how far Havre de Grace has already come in being cognizant of sustainability in general, but also is a reminder of how much farther the community has to go. 

One of the biggest hurdles the community faces in working with DPW is fully incorporating all Havre de Grace residents, which would allow for hookups to city water and sewage lines.  This vital step would drastically improve the efficacy of any water treatment or stewardship plans.  Pockets of Havre de Grace remain unincorporated, according to Ms. Groff.  This leads to poor water management systems due to failing septic systems and a lack of access to city resources.
Havre de Grace becoming Sustainable Maryland certified would ensure both the protection of a vital ecosystem in the Chesapeake Bay and a thriving Harford County community.  “We’re located on the mouth of the bay, and home to one of Harford County’s largest ecosystems,” Samantha Groff, secretary of the HdG Green Team pointed out.  “After seeing city representatives do their part, people need to do what it takes to ensure our children’s future in this community.”

No comments:

Post a Comment