Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision

 

Objective 1.2:

Encourage and facilitate the development of green projects and resilience districts or neighborhoods to ensure that everyone has access to green, open spaces.

The Need

Increasing the number of open, green spaces or resilience districts within a community and access to them is vital to developing community-wide resilience. This part will first define green spaces, resilience districts, and related nature-based projects that are focused on broader, neighborhood resilience, and how they function within a community. It will then detail some of the benefits associated with increased access to green spaces and resilience districts pertaining to public health and social capital. Finally, this part will conclude that, despite these benefits, there is a current lack of access to green, nature-based parks, and open spaces, especially in underrepresented communities.

Definitions and descriptors used throughout the rest of this part include: 

  • Nature-based projects in open spaces or neighborhoods, which can go by many names including green spaces, green and blueways, blue and green corridors, and resilience districts. 
  • Green, open spaces can be characterized as“any open piece of land that is undeveloped . . . and is accessible to the public.”See footnote 1 They are typically areas in urban neighborhoods like parks, schoolyards, community gardens, or wetlands that are covered by vegetation like trees, shrubs, or grass.See footnote 2  
  • Blue corridors (or blueways) refer to the system of canals or waterways running through a community, while green corridors (or greenways) are the areas of land between roads, canals, and other thoroughfares.See footnote 3 Blue corridor projects typically deal with water management, and are focused on creating and maintaining a system of waterways that may include nearby water features and play spaces that can also serve as neighborhood parks. Green corridor projects typically focus on creating green spaces in smaller portions of areas where vegetation — including trees, plants, and permeable sidewalks — will help with drainage issues.See footnote 4 
  • A resilience district is a newer concept that combines green space projects with blue and green corridor programs on a neighborhood scale. A resilience district is “a geographic strategy . . . focused on adapting to flood risk and other climate change impacts as a key first step towards adapting to a changing climate, while taking a comprehensive approach that fosters community resilience.”See footnote 5 Districts, as thought of in a “resilience district” sense, are not just outlines of neighborhoods or “spatial units defined by aesthetic qualities or physical characteristics,”See footnote 6 but rather distinct communities that have unique cultural, economic, and social dynamics, each facing their own vulnerabilities to climate impacts like flooding and extreme heat.

    Viewing districts in this sense and working with them holistically to create “resilience” can allow for more coordinated investments across a district relating to affordable housing projects, and park expansion; greater prioritization, and emphasis on the participation of local residents and businesses in any decisionmaking process, “with a focus on building power and wealth for people of color and individuals with low incomes;” and a more targeted emphasis on the connectedness between health and equity within a specific community, which can lead to increased funding and “investment mechanisms, including value capture.”See footnote 7 For these reasons, resilience districts can promote these different types of benefits on a larger scale. However, individual projects may be necessary and more appropriate, depending on the local context. 

The implementation of green space and/or resilience district projects can provide a community with multiple benefits. From a health perspective, access to green and blue spaces like parks and canals can improve both mental and physical health. Studies have shown that interaction with natural spaces correlates with reduced stress and violence and overall enhanced community health.See footnote 8 From an environmental perspective, green spaces can also enhance water and air quality, and reduce temperatures due to the urban heat island effect.See footnote 9 Access to green spaces can also lead to more social cohesion and economic opportunities in a community as well.See footnote 10 From an economic perspective, “not only do street trees foster a community’s sense of place, but well-maintained streetscapes raise opinions about the quality of goods and services offered. In landscaped shopping districts, surveyed consumers were willing to spend 9–12 percent more than they would spend in an unlandscaped district.”See footnote 11 From a social perspective, communities get more involved in maintaining neighborhood gardens, intergenerational ties are strengthened, communities are more likely to invest in neighborhood improvement projects through community empowerment, and the opportunity to walk through a nearby park encourages neighborhood interaction.See footnote 12 This was especially important during the Coronavirus-19 (COVID) pandemic, where “green spaces became a lifeline for people to get out of the house, relax, and gather safely.”See footnote 13 

Despite these benefits, many communities have significantly less access to walkable green spaces within their neighborhoods. This is particularly acute for underrepresented and overburdened communities. Due to historic inequities and redlining policies, in the most populated cities, neighborhoods that are primarily Black and Brown “have access to an average of 44 percent less park acreage than predominantly white neighborhoods,” with similar statistics in low-income communities. Policymakers and community leaders should work to reduce this gap so that overall community resilience — and the resulting benefits that implementing resilience districts and green projects can bring — are available for everyone.


How to Make Progress on This Objective 

The actions detailed below offer several ways in which regional and local policymakers can initiate actions that facilitate “greauxing” or growing green space assets and access to parks and nature. Local governments can seek to protect and expand green, open spaces through a combination of:

  • Mapping and data
  • Planning documents
  • Land use and zoning mechanisms; and
  • Projects

While not exhaustive, these legal and policy options can help to begin the process of decreasing the aforementioned access gap. It is important to remember, however, that the most effective laws, plans, policies, and projects for resilience districts and green spaces are community-specific, and should be designed to fit the specific needs and vulnerabilities of the neighborhood or district in question.

Mapping and Data

To allocate limited funding and resources, local governments can start enhancing green space and resilience opportunities by identifying the parts of parishes and municipalities that are most susceptible to flooding and growth pressures. Other data pertaining to the unique social aspects of a community (e.g., race, income, education, occupation), and where existing conversation opportunities exist should also be taken into account. In applying this data to parish and municipality maps, policymakers and project implementers can prioritize action in the areas/communities where green spaces and nature-based projects are needed most. It is also vital to emphasize that the best use of mapping and data tools involves not only identifying new areas that will be in need of protection or redevelopment to their natural state, but also the identification of existing green spaces that will need to be maintained. 

To determine and prioritize investments in these areas, local governments should start by engaging communities and evaluating data sources including flood maps, census tracts, socio-economic status, ethnicity, existing green spaces, nature-based amenities, etc. Other examples that can help to prioritize investments for certain areas involve designating and mapping certain spaces within a community for distinct uses. Examples include regional growth maps and mapping context areas (see, e.g., the Louisiana Land Use Toolkit and next section for a more in-depth analysis). 

One example where community engagement, mapping, and data collection have been combined can be found in Florida, with Miami-Dade County’s designation of Adaptation Action Areas (AAA).See footnote 14 In 2011, the State of Florida passed a law to enable local governments to adopt optional comprehensive plan designations for areas that experience coastal flooding and are vulnerable to sea-level rise for the purpose of prioritizing funding for infrastructure projects and adaptation planning.See footnote 15 Under the state Community Planning Act, local governments can adopt AAA and consider updating policies in their local comprehensive plans to increase a community’s resilience.See footnote 16 Throughout Florida, AAA mapping and designation have allowed local governments and stakeholders to align plans and capital projects to better leverage available resources; better educate and collaborate with community stakeholders to identify values, challenges, and potential solutions to adapt to sea-level rise; and create more forward-thinking plans that include, among other recommendations, next steps and potential policy changes that can be implemented. 

Additionally, “AAA planning enhances opportunities to learn from and collaborate with residents, community leaders, and neighborhood organizations to determine which adaptation approaches are preferred for a given area.”See footnote 17 The collaborative aspect of AAA brings together stakeholders, organizations, and agencies when they otherwise may have been siloed to create a more holistic approach to address the short- and long-term needs of communities that are especially susceptible to the impacts of climate change. By engaging with the community early and often regarding climate vulnerabilities, unique community characteristics, and first-hand experiences — and combining this data with some of the mapping tools listed above — policymakers and project managers can create more access to green spaces in communities that need it while also maintaining those spaces that already exist, as was seen in the designation and implementation of the Little River AAA

Description: Map of the Little River Adaptation Action Area. Credit: Savino Miller Design Studio, Adaptation Plan: Little River Adaptation Action Area 8 (2022).

For a more generalized analysis of the importance of mapping and data collection in a context beyond specifically resilience planning and green space expansion and maintenance, see Objectives 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3

Plans 

Mapping and data collection as discussed in the previous part directly impact how planning documents are designed and created. As previously stated in Objective 1.1, plans can set a comprehensive framework that guides how laws, policies, and projects are implemented. Plans go by many names and take a variety of forms. They are developed at different and multiple levels of government and are prepared on multiple geographic scales. Some are legally required and others are out-of-cycle (and have yet to be updated) or discretionary. Plans can also include implementation and tracking tools. Metrics and tracking mechanisms can help local governments and other partners evaluate progress after a plan is released and increase public transparency. 

There are various types of plans that local governments can use in Louisiana to identify and prioritize green spaces, resilience districts, and nature-based projects. Throughout Louisiana, planning is typically treated “as a local matter,” as there are not many statutory standards or guidelines on a state level. To guide or regulate development and land use to better “greaux” new and protect existing green spaces and projects, local policymakers can consider developing or updating comprehensive plans or other types of relevant plans (e.g., adaptation and other individualized resilience plans). For more information on how planning documents can be used to encourage nature-based stormwater management solutions specifically, see Objective 2.2.

Local Comprehensive Plans 

According to Louisiana state law, every parish and municipality has the authority to create a planning commission and appropriate funding for it.See footnote 18 Once created, the planning commission must make and adopt a master plan “for the physical development of the community.”See footnote 19 In Louisiana, a local comprehensive plan — referred to as a “master plan” in state statute — is “a statement of public policy for the physical development of a parish or municipality” that is adopted by that parish or municipality. Parishes and municipalities that adopt these plans are required to consider them when “adopting, approving, or promulgating any local laws, ordinances, or regulations which are inconsistent with that adopted elements of [said plan].”See footnote 20 As such, local governments are legally mandated to consider decisions before they make them if they are inconsistent with their comprehensive plans, if the jurisdiction has one. 

This “look before you leap” procedural requirement encourages local governments to take actions that are consistent with their local comprehensive plans. In turn, this statutory provision provides some legal weight and adds importance to local decisions that come from comprehensive plans compared to other types of plans — including for nature-based plans and projects, such as resilience districts or programs that expand access to green spaces. Accordingly, if parishes and municipalities explicitly include green priorities and projects into their local comprehensive plans, these plans can serve as a guiding and coordinating force among “local laws, ordinances, and regulations” and ideally other supplemental and related plans and policies to build more resilient communities. 

Jurisdictions that have or are interested in developing a comprehensive plan could start by updating or including a resilience/natural infrastructure element. This resiliency element can provide insights into the types and conditions of local communities’ capacity to withstand flooding and extreme weather events, and which types of projects or programs would best mitigate the impacts of these events. Further, local governments should aim to integrate other related comprehensive plan elements into any parts relating to expanding or maintaining access to green spaces, including projected demographics, changes and flood risk over different time horizons, social vulnerabilities, economic development, the environment, and other “green” community amenities. This can help to bring a more holistic picture of the climate impacts and resiliency challenges a parish or municipality is experiencing — which could be exacerbated or altered by population growth and transitions. This is in comparison to approaching resilience as an isolated element. 

One example of a jurisdiction that amended its local comprehensive plan to incorporate increased access to more open spaces and green projects is the City of Gonzales, Louisiana. In collaboration with its residents, city staff, and elected officials, the city has created a strategic framework for the future growth of Gonzales that emphasizes the maintenance of existing wetlands and open spaces, and encourages property owners to work with businesses to implement innovative, green infrastructure projects to help with stormwater management, provide residents with environmental amenities, and more. In highlighting the importance that open spaces and green infrastructure has for a community in their comprehensive, strategic plan for the future, Gonzales acts as an example of a community that has designed a plan that addresses growth, but also balances community needs and environmental conservation. 

Land-Use Maps 

Land-use maps developed as part of local comprehensive plans can guide where a community will grow as it develops. As outlined by CPEX, types of land-use maps include regional growth maps and context area maps. These can both be used in complementary ways that can encourage the expansion and incorporation of green, open spaces into a parish or municipality. These mapping tools can also be used to help support the creation or amendment of different types of zoning districts (see the subsequent part for more details on zoning ordinances). 

  • Mapping Regional Growth: Regional growth maps “dictate where future growth will occur within a community by considering issues such as environmentally sensitive lands, size of parcels, existing and planned levels of utility service, established and proposed street systems, location and capacity of schools and location of employment centers.”See footnote 21 The different growth categories include preservation, restricted growth, anticipated growth, and infill growth. 

    Relating to green space projects, local policymakers can designate certain areas as preservation and restricted growth areas. Preservation areas are identified as those that are not suited for development, most often due to environmental sensitivities like the presence of wetlands, waters, forests, etc.See footnote 22 Preservation areas can even be designated in urban and suburban areas to make space for urban parks, waterways, and other nature-based projects. Similarly, restricted growth areas in rural communities are those that are protected from future development and can be used as a developable land bank.See footnote 23 
  • Mapping Context Areas: Mapping context areas ensures that parishes and municipalities apply the right rules and develop for the right uses in specific areas. Context area categories are natural, rural, suburban, urban, center, and special, and are applied within identified regional growth areas (see above bullet).  

    For the sake of implementing green projects and resilience districts, designating areas as natural context areas is important. Lands identified as natural are those that are unsuitable for development, with a focus on the conservation and preservation of natural resources.See footnote 24 Special designation in restricted growth sectors can also incorporate “natural” designations in restricted growth areas, which can include federal, state, and parish parklands.See footnote 25 

Other Types of Plans 

Parishes and municipalities also have the authority to create more generalized planning documents that recommend the inclusion, expansion, and maintenance of open spaces and green projects in a community’s future. These plans can vary widely in scope, from a generalized parish- or city-wide adaptation and resilience plans, to plans that address or impact only one aspect of a community, like one certain neighborhood or sector (e.g., parks, stormwater management, etc.). One example of a more generalized city-wide strategy is Miami, Florida’s Resilient 305 Strategy, which is an adaptation and resilience plan that lays out dozens of action items that municipalities in Miami-Dade County can take to help these communities better prepare for and respond to the impacts of sea-level rise and flooding. The plan was developed by Greater Miami & The Beaches — a unique collaborative effort between the governments of Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, and the City of Miami Beach. Included among the recommended resilience strategies are the expansion and support of nature-based infrastructure projects throughout the Greater Miami area and the restoration and maintenance of open spaces along the coast — especially shorelines.

One example of a more sector-specific plan is the Gainesville Parks & Recreation Strategic Plan 2018–2022 (Gainesville, GA) which outlines the agency’s five-year plan to develop and improve its parks and recreation programs to provide access and better serve the needs of all Gainesville residents. Included among many of the initiatives contained within the plan are projects like providing more access to quality, diversified amenities, and open spaces and introducing green infrastructure into already existing parks. 

 Description: Concept plan for Midtown Greenway in Gainesville, Georgia. Credit: Gainesville Parks and Recreation, Georgia, Midtown Greenway Concept Plan (2020), available at https://www.gainesville.org/DocumentCenter/View/835/Midtown-Greenway-Concept-Plan-PDF

These two examples show that parishes and local agencies have the ability to design and implement plans that incorporate green infrastructure and open spaces into the projects and places in the community over which they have authority. Plans do not always need to be as broad as strategic comprehensive planning documents for entire areas, though developing and implementing local comprehensive plans is still recommended. They can be designed to specifically address resilience measures, or tailor-made to fit under the auspices of the authority a certain agency has — all while encouraging open spaces and green infrastructure for the benefit of the community.  

Land Use and Zoning

In addition to planning, local governments can evaluate updating land-use and zoning ordinances to support local nature-based priorities — as well as encourage the expansion and maintenance of open spaces — to build community resilience. Ideally, any regulatory amendments will be guided by and aligned with relevant plans, especially local comprehensive plans. Tools and regulatory policies discussed in this part include: land use maps; zoning ordinances; subdivision ordinances; and additional ordinances like parking standards, rural corridor overlay districts, and landscaping standards.See footnote 26 The Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) has developed a toolkit that can help communities either develop or amend land-use and zoning ordinances to better facilitate the development of green spaces and resilience districts (see, e.g., Louisiana Land Use Toolkit).

Land-Use and Zoning Ordinances 

As was articulated in Objective 1.1, zoning ordinances provide the legal framework that governs the use and development of land in a municipality according to different districts based on the uses that are permitted (e.g., residential, commercial, industrial).See footnote 27  

As part of any land-use and zoning ordinance, parishes and municipalities should include an intent section. This section outlines how the ordinances will be used to implement goals like protecting natural infrastructure and visual character, creating a range of housing opportunities and choices, creating mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods, encouraging community and stakeholder collaboration, and preserving rural character, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas, among others.See footnote 28 As outlined in local comprehensive plans, ordinance components can include defining regional growth sectors, context areas, zoning districts, building types, and official maps.See footnote 29 Mapping can be an instrumental tool in determining and designating which areas of a community should be slated for different types of growth, or in some cases, conservation. Information on how communities can better access mapping resources can be found in Goal 5. Ordinances can also include use provisions like requiring that certain spaces be kept open for gathering or outdoor recreation. They can also contain site development and landscaping standards like mandating that parking lots contain vegetation, permeable pavement, and buffers.See footnote 30  

Overlay zones or districts can be an additional tool local policymakers can use to further protect open spaces. Usually, they are added or layered on top of base zoning districts. Overlay zones can further restrict or regulate certain areas based on “special characteristics in that zone, such as for natural, historical, or cultural resources protection.”See footnote 31  

In both St. Tammany and Ascension Parish, local governments have used zoning to conserve open spaces, and are also contemplating how to better preserve green spaces like wetlands through planning and zoning processes. Both communities have developed language in their ordinances to conserve open space through actions like decreasing developable density outside commercial centers. Designating an area under a zoning ordinance — and an additional overlay zone, in some cases — can create special protections for areas that can then be redeveloped or preserved for open space purposes. For further discussion of how overlay zones and zoning ordinances can be used to encourage the implementation of nature-based projects more broadly, see Objective 2.2.

Subdivision and Additional Ordinances 

Subdivision ordinances are another tool that can be used separately from or in addition to larger land-use and zoning ordinances. Subdivision ordinances are basic ordinances that require different rules and use context areas to regulate development on a smaller scale. Similar to prohibitions in zoning ordinances, subdivision ordinances can prohibit development in areas that parishes would like to preserve for open spaces.

Other ordinances, like rural corridor overlay districts, parking standards, and landscaping standards can also be used to encourage or require property owners and developers to install specified types of green spaces, or plant trees and other types of native vegetation. Additionally, green and resilience incentives and regulations can include creating stormwater ponds and using setbacks and buffers with extensive tree canopies and permeable pavements.See footnote 32 

Projects

The design and implementation of individualized projects can also help to expand or create new open spaces and introduce green infrastructure into a community. As established in Objective 1.1, examples and scales can vary from demolishing an existing structure on a parcel of land to creating a pocket park within a community, to restoring acres of land back to their natural state to offer ecosystem services and open space for recreation, as well as mitigate flood impacts. 


Crosscutting Considerations and Practice Tips

When developing new or updating existing plans to increase the number and types of nature-based projects, such as green spaces and resilience districts, decisionmakers may consider the following crosscutting considerations and practice tips:

  • Avoid environmental gentrification
  • Prioritize both the preservation and expansion of green spaces and projects
  • Prioritize the creation and maintenance of new green spaces and projects
  • Engage communities throughout planning and implementation to encourage buy-in
  • Plan with an eye toward implementation and maintenance
  • Develop public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships to leverage funding and knowledge

These tips are based on priority implementation best practices and considerations most relevant to this specific objective and do not present an exhaustive list for regional and local planners and policymakers. In addition to this objective, decisionmakers should, at a minimum, also refer to Goal Five for crosscutting considerations and practice tips including structuring equitable and inclusive community engagement processes and evaluating opportunities to build public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships. 

It is important to acknowledge that every jurisdiction will be starting from a different place and have a unique local context and needs, among other factors. Therefore, these considerations and practice tips could be adopted individually, collectively, or not at all. It will be up to policymakers to work directly with their communities and other key stakeholders and partners to assess and determine potential tools and approaches to implement this goal and objective.  

  • Avoid environmental gentrification: While greening policies and projects can offer significant community benefits, adding green spaces in underresourced communities may lead to increased cost burden and the rapid transition of a community, especially in areas experiencing population growth. Green spaces are in high demand and can be a significant neighborhood amenity.See footnote 33 Adding these types of spaces can increase rents and purchase prices for homes, displacing lower-income residents who are typically people of color.See footnote 34 Balance must be struck between creating a community that is just “green enough” to make neighborhoods healthier and more attractive while ensuring that those who currently live there can still afford to do so.See footnote 35 Officials should ensure that their actions help to increase community resilience by continually taking proactive action to involve community stakeholders.
  • Prioritize both the preservation and expansion of green spaces and projects: Greening communities and offering more open spaces involves both the conservation, expansion, and maintenance of existing spaces and projects as well as the implementation of new ones. As policymakers deliberate ways to make their communities more resilient to flooding and extreme weather events, it is important that they emphasize both of these initiatives, and address them in conjunction with each other in the development and implementation of plans, policies, and projects. Essentially, parishes and municipalities must both preserve and create new green spaces and projects to protect existing and increase new access. The preservation of existing spaces and projects will be discussed in this bullet point, and the creation in the next.

    Many plans and ordinances specifically detail the expansion and maintenance of existing open spaces, green projects, parks, and protected areas. Examples include developing green space expansion plans and projects in conjunction with existing agency plans that are already funded (e.g., Miami-Dade Sea Level Rise Strategy [developing in conjunction with the Parks and Open Space System Master Plan’s Greenways, Trails, and Water Trails Vision]); leveraging the work of different land acquisition programs including for conservation and hazard mitigation programs like buyouts to expand existing open space; increasing waterfront setbacks to prohibit structures, which can expand existing buffers/open spaces between water/blueways and development (e.g., Overview of Selected Parishes’ Freeboard, Fill, and Open Space Rules); planting vegetation within public assets already owned by the government, including boulevards, parkways, and medians (e.g., Gentilly Resilience District: Blue and Green Corridors Project); and incorporating and maintaining more tree canopy and natural stormwater infrastructure projects into existing parks or open spaces that are slated for “basic upgrades.”

  • Prioritize the creation and maintenance of new green spaces and projects: In conjunction with the expansion and maintenance of existing projects and spaces, parishes can also develop new projects or protect new areas to expand access to nature throughout communities. The creation of entire neighborhoods with an emphasis on resilience will help to create a network of small spaces where water and stormwater runoff can go, helping to decrease flooding throughout the whole community.


    Policy and program options relating to new projects can include actions like removing and replacing impervious pavement in roads, parking lots, and driveways with permeable options, swales, and rain gardens to reduce stormwater runoff (e.g., Gentilly Resilience District: Mirabeau Water Gardens); framing new resilience districts and rainwater parks as pilot projects that can be scaled up and used in neighborhoods across entire regions (see, e.g., Little River AAA); and leveraging the work of different land acquisition programs including for conservation and hazard mitigation programs like buyouts to add new open spaces or parks to a community.
  • Engage communities throughout planning and implementation to encourage buy-in: The life cycle of planning processes should begin with the community and continue beyond the point when a physical planning document is finalized.  Education is particularly important in relation to the benefits of green projects and open spaces. Communities are more likely to push for the design and implementation of these types of plans, policies, or programs in their own communities if they are aware of the numerous benefits that green infrastructure and access to open, green spaces can bring to their neighborhoods. A bottom-up push for project or plan implementation can be extremely persuasive when it comes to prioritizing a parishes’ limited resources.

  • Plan with an eye towards implementation and maintenance: Governments should avoid “planning for planning’s sake” or overplanning. This can result in several administrative and social consequences. First, this can lead to wasted time and resources. On the community side, too much planning may confuse or frustrate people trying to understand how different plans further a government’s resilience goals. In addition, governments can risk burning out residents by asking them to contribute their time and expertise again and again. Moreover, planning processes leading to nowhere can erode faith or trust in government with community members that expect and need plans to lead to immediate action, which can be especially true relating to plans, policies, or projects that relate to flooding. Instead, plans, policies, and projects should be developed with the intention that they will be implemented in ways that support community-driven resilience laws, policies, and projects. The Little River AAA provides an example of how a community-led and implementation-focused strategic plan is already helping the city make progress on economic development and resilience, and other initiatives.

    In instances where a green project or open space has been created for the community, lack of maintenance can also lead to an erosion of faith or trust in the government. Projects that involve actions like the creation of community gardens, planting trees, and conserving wetlands will require continued maintenance from project implementers in order to maintain their benefits to the community. As such, when these plans, policies, and programs are developed, it is important not only to design them with implementation in mind, but to also take into account the cost (both time and monetary) of their maintenance.
  • Develop public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships: Large-scale projects like resilience districts will require significant collaboration between a variety of partners, both government and otherwise. Resilience districts are typically designed by parish and municipal governments, but are relatively expensive to implement. As such, they often require financing and funding through private and other partners. Additionally, community-based organizations and residents should be consistently engaged so any project directly addresses the needs and challenges a community faces (see Objective 1.1 and Objective 5.1 for more information on community engagement practices).


The summaries below highlight resources and case studies available in Georgetown Climate Center’s Adaptation Clearinghouse that are relevant to this objective. They illustrate how many of the above benefits, practice tips, and planning, legal, and policy tools were or are being evaluated and used in practice in different jurisdictions. To learn more and navigate to the Adaptation Clearinghouse, click on the “View Resource” buttons.

Related Resources

 
Greauxing Resilience at Home — Miami-Dade County, Florida: Little River Adaptation Action Area Plan

The Little River Adaptation Action Area (AAA) plan was released in January 2022 as part of the process to implement the Miami-Dade County Sea Level Rise Strategy. Adaptation Action Areas are locations that are especially prone to climate impacts like coastal flooding so that they can be prioritized for funding and planning purposes. The Little River AAA is made up of parts of the City of Miami, as well as the Village of El Portal and two unincorporated areas. Identified as one of the communities in that area most susceptible to climate impacts, Miami-Dade County’s Office of Resilience, in collaboration with Florida’s Department of the Department of Environmental Protection and private partners like Savino-Miller Design, developed the adaptation plan to address existing conditions across five sectors by offering distinct adaptation tools that can help mitigate the impacts of climate within each sector. From this plan, local policymakers and planners can take the generalized idea behind AAA — and the practice of making adaptation plans more specific to localities — as well as the specific projects and programs recommended within the document and implement them in their own communities. Many of the initiatives outlined within the plan involve the incorporation of green infrastructure, nature-based solutions, and increased access to open spaces.

Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of New Orleans, Louisiana: Gentilly Resilience District Projects

In 2015, the City of New Orleans released its Resilient New Orleans strategy outlining the city’s vision and plan for building a more equitable, adaptable, and prosperous New Orleans. The strategy outlines various recommendations, which all go towards one of three main goals: adapting to thrive, connecting to opportunity, and transforming city systems. One project featured in Resilient New Orleans is the Mirabeau Water Gardens project. Informed by the design and stormwater management features outlined in the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, the Mirabeau Water Gardens project, once completed, will serve as a recreational, environmentally friendly amenity for the community that also reduces flood risk. Additional projects a part of the Gentilly Resilience District include the Pontilly Neighborhood Stormwater and the Blue and Green Corridors projects. Throughout the development of the plans and programs relating to the Gentilly Resilience District, local policymakers offered numerous opportunities for community input. Most of the projects not only increase community resilience, but also offer new spaces for the community to gather, educate residents on the benefits associated with green infrastructure, and incorporate safe walking and biking paths throughout the neighborhood.  

Louisiana Coastal Land Use Toolkit 2.1

Developed by the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX), the Louisiana Coastal Land Use Toolkit contains development standards that are designed to support hazard mitigation and natural resource protection in the coastal areas of Louisiana. The Toolkit offers a customizable regulatory framework for land use and development, in particular for those communities facing coastal and stormwater flooding. The Toolkit includes model zoning and subdivision codes that can be used to build more resilient coastal communities that are adaptive to these climate impacts and others, by adopting sustainable development and Smart Growth principles. The model ordinances can be used individually and tailored for the needs of each parish or municipality, or may be combined to create a complete development code. Many of these model ordinances directly protect “open spaces” and provide for increased access to green spaces “through the most efficient design and layout of the land.” 

Louisiana Land Use Toolkit 3.0

The Louisiana Land Use Toolkit was created by the Center of Planning Excellence (CPEX), as a model development code to support economically, culturally, and environmentally sustainable development for communities of Louisiana. The Toolkit applies “Smart Growth” principles to future development planning, aiming to create resilient communities, revitalized neighborhoods, increased land value, affordable housing, and protected rural, natural, and open space areas. The Toolkit is a free, online resource designed for Louisiana parishes and municipalities to tailor to local needs by adopting a zoning code, a subdivision code, or an individual ordinance — or to be customized into a complete development code.

Miami-Dade County, Florida: Sea Level Rise Strategy

In February 2021, Miami-Dade County, in collaboration with private consulting partners, released the Miami-Dade County Sea Level Rise Strategy. The strategy outlines the five different ways that the County, its agencies, and its partners can facilitate county-wide adaptation to climate impacts, especially sea-level rise: 1.) building on fill; 2.) building like the keys; 3.) building on high ground around transit; 4.) expanding greenways and blueways; and 5.) creating blue and green neighborhoods. To help advance these five approaches, the strategy outlines ten strategic actions built on previous work done throughout the county to help communities prepare for increased flooding and higher sea levels. Many of the actions that facilitate the five ways the county can adapt to sea-level rise include expanding existing green, open spaces and incorporating more nature-based solutions into infrastructure planning.

Ascension Parish, Louisiana and St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana: Conservation Planning and Zoning

Ascension and St. Tammany Parishes are two parishes or counties in Louisiana that are using zoning to promote floodplain management and conserve green spaces. Each parish is contemplating how to preserve suburban and rural character through planning processes. In addition, each parish has crafted code language that allows it to conserve rural spaces by discouraging sprawl and floodplain development and by downzoning or decreasing developable density outside commercial centers. 

Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of North Miami, Florida: Good Neighbor Stormwater Park and Repetitive Loss Master Plan

The City of North Miami, Florida Good Neighbor Stormwater Park is a public open space with the capacity for local flood prevention, doubling as a stormwater reservoir. A repurposed vacant lot within North Miami’s residential neighborhood of Sunny Acres, this adaptive stormwater green infrastructure is vegetated with an array of native trees and plants, while also acting as a communal space with walking paths and artistic structures that educate the public on flooding hazards. 

Gainesville Parks & Recreation Strategic Plan 2018-2022

In the Gainesville, Georgia Parks & Recreation Strategic Plan 2018-2022 (the Plan), the Gainesville Parks and Recreation Agency outlines a five-year strategy to develop and improve its parks, recreation programs, and community facilities to serve the needs of all of its residents. In creating the Plan, Gainesville consulted national and local parks’ strategic plans, completed surveys, and gathered input from community comments. This outreach significantly informed the Plan’s strategic vision for the future of Gainesville. The Plan’s mission is to improve the quality of life of Gainesville residents by equitably providing accessible facilities and a diversity of activities. Gainesville outlines the following as its guiding values: demonstrate fiscal responsibility, develop partnerships, foster diversity, provide quality and value of service, value the workforce, enhance stewardship, and communicate effectively. Part of the plan included expanding the city’s existing greenways. Located south of the Downtown Square, the Midland Greenway in Gainesville, Georgia is a rails-to-trails project that will create biking and pedestrian trails along the route of an abandoned railroad. The trails will also include a State Park and public art. With two miles of tree-canopied trails, Rock Creek Greenway includes four parks — Rock Creek Veterans Park, Ivey Terrace Park, Wilshire Trails Park, and Longwood Park — and connects Gainesville Downtown Square to Lake Lanier. The greenway includes war memorials, lakeside swings, tennis courts, and a popular playground.

Overview of Selected Parishes’ Freeboard, Fill, and Open Space Rules and Projects within Louisiana’s Region Seven Watershed

As coastal erosion and the threat of major hurricanes and other flooding events continue to threaten Louisiana, parishes have begun to adopt jurisdiction-specific approaches to mitigating those risks. The establishment of freeboard requirements, no-net fill practices, and the incorporation of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI), such as open spaces and native vegetation, are three major ways to prepare for and mitigate flooding. This brief entry provides a non-exhaustive overview of some of the ways five Louisiana parishes are using these approaches: Ascension, St. Bernard, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, and Tangipahoa. Elevation and fill requirements in the parishes only apply to constructions in the 100-year Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or the floodway within it. Fill and other encroachments into the floodplain are generally prohibited absent a showing that flood levels in the community would not be raised by that encroachment.

Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Gonzales, Louisiana: Gonzales Comprehensive Plan

The City of Gonzales, Louisiana updated its local comprehensive plan to accommodate rapid growth. The Gonzales Comprehensive Plan was created in collaboration with Gonzales’s residents, city staff, various stakeholders, and Gonzales’s elected officials. In the plan, the city presents a clear strategic framework for the future growth of Gonzales. The city addresses Gonzales’s land use and urban design, mobility and transportation, housing, economy, quality of life and city services, and redevelopment of its downtown area. The plan’s environmental considerations include emphasizing the city’s green spaces and community amenities and benefits, and reducing future flood risk/building overall community resilience. The plan is an example of a local comprehensive plan that addresses growth, while also balancing community needs and environmental conservation in an increasingly suburban area that is experiencing high demands for new development. It outlines ways the city can develop in floodplains while minimizing flood risk and environmental consequences, capturing stormwater, and maintaining and increasing access to open and natural areas.

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