As a major port city, Baltimore’s history with industrial activity influenced how the city’s land has been zoned and developed over time. The resulting design, infrastructure, and zoning of Baltimore’s neighborhoods has not always lent itself to environmental protection and sustainability. In recent years however, Baltimore City has shown an increasing commitment to the protection of its natural landscape and resources through multiple funding opportunities.
Storm-water runoff has been a major problem for Baltimore City. Storm-water runoff, in an urban context, results from aging infrastructure, abandoned lots covered by impervious surfaces, and minimal buffering due to a lack of green space and tree cover. Fortunately, Federal, State, and local officials have partnered with non-governmental and non-profit organizations to improve these conditions. They are funding community-focused projects that will improve open space and ultimately protect one of the region’s most critical resources, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
In 2011, Baltimore became a pilot site for the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which focuses on collaboration between governmental and non-governmental organizations in order to revitalize urban waters and communities. The program uses data on water quality and green space to better understand how to solve environmental problems at the local and regional levels. The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance of the Jacob France Institute developed an interactive map to monitor community-managed open spaces.
In June of this year, State and Federal agencies and the Chesapeake Bay Trust announced grant awards totaling $3.7 million. The grants are part of the Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns Initiative (G3) and will help the Baltimore region implement small and large projects to reverse storm-water and other types of pollution threatening the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore City was awarded over $1.5 million in grants, which were divided among the following projects:
- The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore received nearly $250,000 for street-scape improvements on 400 E. Pratt Street including a “bioretention area for storm water runoff.”
- Another $250,000 was awarded to the Patterson Park Neighborhood Association to remove and replace dead trees.
- The remaining $1.0 million of Baltimore City’s grant awards was split between neighborhood associations, non-profits, and other groups.
This September, the City of Baltimore’s Growing Green Initiative (GGi) announced awards of nearly $300,000 in competitive green infrastructure grants. GGi hopes to transform the city’s overabundance of vacant lots using green design guidelines from The Green Pattern Book. Seven projects lead by various community activists, non-profits, and private design firms were awarded funding, including funding for a restoration and beautification effort by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The Foundation expects to prevent 242,000 gallons of runoff annually. In general, the GGi funded projects replace unused, impervious surface with functional green spaces such as community gardens, pocket parks, and wildlife habitats.
In addition to the ambitious goal to make Baltimore’s Inner Harbor “swimmable and fishable by 2020,” the growing commitment to Baltimore’s natural landscape is evident by the continued funding of green infrastructure projects. It appears Baltimore City is serious about protecting its natural landscape, though it continues to balance development of commercial and industrial activity (which provides much needed job opportunities) and protection of open space and the Inner Harbor (which improves city residents’ quality of life).
Does your city struggle with green infrastructure? What creative solutions have you seen or hope to see used in your community?
Credits: Images by Jade Clayton. Data linked to sources.