Greenworks Philadelphia 2012 Progress

When Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter took office in January 2008, he pledged to make Philadelphia the greenest city in America. To make good on his pledge, he created the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.  The new office spent a year researching municipal sustainability, talking with residents, and drafting Greenworks Philadelphia. Released in 2009, the ambitious plan sets 15 sustainability targets in the areas of energy, environment, equity, economy, and engagement to make Philadelphia the greenest city in America by 2015.  The plan outlines specific, measurable goals including:  lowering municipal energy use, increasing recyclying, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, providing more public access to green space, increased access to affordable,  healthy food.

The Greenworks Philadelphia 2012 progress report has just been released (late June 2012), detailing progress on more than 160 initiatives within 15 defined targets.  We, the Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition, believe that Targets 8, 9 and 11 are specifically relevant to our position opposing development of the 128-acre Eastwick green space parcel adjacent to Heinz Refuge.  We urge the City of Philadelphia to utlize this valuable green space to help achieve it’s ambitious goals, not reverse progress by developing it with urban housing.

Below is excerpted from the Greenworks Philadelphia 2012 Progress Report.

Greenworks Philadelphia Target 8: Manage Stormwater to Meet Federal Standards
On April 10, 2012, the City of Philadelphia signed the “Green City, Clean Waters” Partnership Agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The historic agreement recognizes the Philadelphia Water Department’s innovative approach to using green stormwater infrastructure to reduce pollution from combined sewer overflows.  Green stormwater infrastructure intercepts rain water at the  source, retaining and allowing it to flow into the ground, where soil and plants recycle it.  Without green stormwater infrastructure, rain water drains into sewers and causes overflow that pollute Philadelphia’s waterways.  The agreement between the City of Philadelphia and the EPA, along with the Consent Order and Agreement signed with the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection on June 1, 2011, allows Philadelphia to invest nearly $2 billion in green stormwater management.

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) measures stormwater management progress by the number of “greened acres” created.  The area counted as greened includes both the area of the stormwater management feature itself, and the area that drains to it.  In Philadelphia, an acre receives an average of 1 million gallons of rainfall each year.  Today, if the land is impervious, all 1 million gallons run off into the sewer and become polluted.  A greened acre will prevent 80 to 90 percent of this pollution.

The 2015 target is 450 New Greened Acres.  The current (2012) number of greened acres is 13.9.

Greenworks Philadelphia Target 9: Provide Walkable Access to Park Resources/Expanding Open Space
Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park system consists of 9,200 acres of forest, trails, streams and neighborhood recreational facilities (i.e., playgrounds, picnic areas).  Despite the robust city park system, not all urban residents can easily access open space.  The City is committed to adding an addtional 500 acres of open space by 2015, particularly in priority areas of South Phila., West Phila., North Phila., Lower Northeast Phila., and East and West Oak Lane.

In 2011, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) partnered with the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a non-profit land conservation organization and national leader in urban parks.  The Trust works with Philadelphia community members to identify open space where it is most needed.  The William Penn Foundation and Penn. Dept of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR) are both providing resources to support this initiative.  In addition to constructing new parks, PPR is also committed to increasing connections between neighborhoods and open spaces.  Note The 128-acre Eastwick green space lies between the Eastwick regional rail stop and the Heinz Refuge.  If preserved as green space, thousands more people would have immediate access to green space, by simply stepping off the train at Eastwick.

Since the Greenworks plan launched in 2009, the city has added just 100 acres of new park space (2012).  They need 400 more acres by 2015 to achieve their goal.

Greenworks Philadelphia Target 11:  Increase Tree Coverage toward 30%
Prior to the Greenworks plan of 2009, Philadelphia had been losing tree canopy for decades, but innovative planning and maintenance programs have recently reversed that trend.  Trees play an integral part in achieving many Greenworks plan targets, including reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, and managing stormwater.  Trees make the air we breathe cleaner, and reduce illnesses such as asthma.  Tree shade lowers summer temperatures, reduce noise polllution, increase habitat for urban wildlife.  Street trees and stormwater tree trenches play an important role in absorbing stormwater runoff.  A healthy tree canopy increases the economic stability of neighborhoods.  Note:  While young trees are inexpensive and easy to plant, it’s best to leave a tree standing, rather than cut it down, and plant a new one later! 

The Greenworks goal is to plant 300,000 trees by 2015.  Currently (2012) a little over 63,000 trees have been planted.

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