Earth Day has arrived and across Williamsport efforts are underway for the future design of the extensive park system and a downtown walkway to provide users with aspects of green
infrastructure, making the city more beautiful and more respectful of the environment.
These elements may include a rain garden planted with a native variety of flowers and plants, a causeway with openings that allow rainwater to move through it to an underlying reservoir, the planting of saplings — as they will for Arbor Day on Friday — building cisterns and vegetated swales, according to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which has people working closely with Mayor Derek Slaughter.
Green is the color of life
It is the chlorophyll in the leaves, the grass—yes, which needs to be mowed weekly or bi-weekly—and the plant life that provides the exchanges of oxygen and carbon dioxide for breathing and continue to live.
But green is also the color that precedes the city’s infrastructure.
These types of green or environmentally friendly designs are being considered as part of the City of Williamsport’s overall recreation, parks and open space plan.
Recently, Slaughter, which is working to add more of these concepts to improve city parks and give the city a head start on its plan to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff – received approval from city council to ask the city to cover $75,000 in local matching funds for what is called a “State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources C2P2 Grant”, another significant step towards the realization of the overall plan.
“The comprehensive recreation, parks and open space plan is key as we continue to move the city forward and make improvements in Williamsport,” said slaughter.
The killing continues: “Investments in our recreational parks and open spaces to include green infrastructure projects will improve the quality of life for citizens while beautifying our city,” he said.
“I look forward to continuing to work with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to update our comprehensive plan,” he said.
The local match may come from the use of U.S. bailout funds or another funding mechanism, with the department covering the same amount as the local match.
Meanwhile, Teresa Sparacino, a consultant with Delta Development Group, said she was working on the city’s behalf to secure the C2P2 grant, which could be awarded in late fall.
In Harrisburg, for example, that city launched the program in five of its parks in just over 18 months after the full plan was in place, Sparacino told the council recently.
Green infrastructure is offered in other places in the city, not just in parks.
The design is part of what has been proposed along Willow Street.
Willow Street is a rather nondescript lane between East Third and East Fourth streets in the Old Town section of the city. Its eastern terminus is Basin Street and it leads to Market Street to the west, an ideal connecting route for students, staff and others heading downtown west of Market Street and into the section of the Old Town area of the East Third Street Gateway redevelopment project. .
The overhaul will be accomplished using a combination of about $1 million in federal transit dollars and just under $170,000 in community development block grant funds, Sander said.
According to Sander, the street has been redesigned as a pedestrian cycle path, while being shared by vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. Rain gardens could be added as an embellishment and permeable surfaces that allow rainwater to flow through drainage systems rather than end up in puddles or ponds could be part of the plan.
Beyond Earth Week, several weeks from now, the administration plans to meet with groups of people who have ideas for how green infrastructure can be used in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and emails have arrived with plans to work with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, says Sandre.