Stewardship Advocacy Training Unites Proctor and Intrenchment Creek

Youth participants in the Atlanta Watershed Learning Network along with their instructors

Community members who have learned to advocate for their own communities make the best mentors for those who are just beginning to get their feet wet. Since late April, Proctor Creek Stewards have been working and learning together with Intrenchment Creek Green Infrastructure Advocates to develop strategies to address flooding issues in and protect both the Proctor and Intrenchment Creek watersheds. ECO-Action, in collaboration with WAWA,  The Conservation Fund, City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management and the support of American Rivers has engaged roughly 20 participants in each of four workshop sessions, developing their understanding about these watersheds and learning about green stormwater infrastructure, climate change and environmental justice issues related to flooding in these communities.

Participants and trainer brainstorming to identify potential projects.

The program deliberately mobilizes residents from both the Proctor Creek  and Intrenchment Creek watersheds, partnering individuals who have some experience in green infrastructure advocacy with those who are new to it. Participants are now preparing action projects around the topics of 1) communications strategies that will engage additional residents and influence and elected officials and stakeholders for green infrastructure; 2) green infrastructure project development to address flooding issues; 3) water quality monitoring and accountability through citizen science; and 4) education for efficient water use and stormwater retention in homes and schools. Participants’ projects will be presented at the closing session to be held on August 5th at 11 am. The session will be held at the Georgia Hill Neighborhood Center, 250 Georgia Avenue, Atlanta Georgia 30312.

This training is an integral activity of the Atlanta Watershed Learning Network.  This network enhances community outreach and engagement for the development and use of parks and the application of green infrastructure to address stormwater issues. By building community capacity to support the use of green stormwater infrastructure, Integrated Stormwater Management, and other sustainable measures, ECO-Action is building community capability to address flooding issues equitably while also protecting the Intrenchment and Proctor Creek watersheds.

For additional information about the Atlanta Watershed Learning Network, please contact Dr. Yomi at (678) 576-6715 or email asnoibi@gmail.com.

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ECO-Action Completes Green Infrastructure at AUC Project

ECO-Action recently completed a project that established a collaborative, educational framework for Green Infrastructure (GI) within the Atlanta University Center (AUC).  From June 2014 through August 2016, through workshops, field trips, community forums, and classroom instruction, more than 350 students contributed to plans to alleviate pervasive storm water flooding around AUC.

flooding-boone-and-nj-ave-2015-croppedWith the assistance of its partners, ECO-Action helped students integrate Green Infrastructure practices into a series of substantive recommendations. The two-year effort culminated in the work of 27 students who developed nine Conceptual Plans to capture storm water from AUC campuses as well as surrounding properties that drain onto the AUC campuses.

Students were able to use this headwater of Proctor Creek as a living laboratory for development of best practices such as water testing, GIS analyses, and site mapping for green infrastructure. The initiative was funded primarily through EPA’s Urban Waters Program, which seeks to “help local residents and their organizations, particularly those in under-served communities, restore their urban waters in ways that also benefit community and economic revitalization.”

forum-2-768x1024“Being involved in planning and hopefully implementing GI throughout my community has been such an insightful experience.” said Spelman student Sydney Hubbert. “I feel I am able to give back to my community in a way that will last generations and possibly spur even more GI methods throughout the community, nation, and world.”

Early in their research, students documented the adverse effects that combined sewage – storm water mixed with raw sewage – flooding downhill from the AUC campuses has on public health in the lower elevation residential communities and on water quality in Proctor Creek.  They took it as a moral responsibility to develop capacity relief for the combined sewer system to reduce the adverse impacts that flooding from the AUC campuses has on downstream public health.

In line with the notion that nature can help make cities healthier, more resilient and more appealing places to live, the students also recognized that introducing storm water storage greenways to the AUC campuses could improve aesthetics and provide passive recreation opportunities and play spaces.  One Conceptual Plan notes that, “running water releases negative ions into its surroundings which mediate mood and improve creativity….”  Other research states, “walking in nature changes brain chemistry in a positive way, in such a way as to reduce violence and improve attitude.”

fieldwork-1-360x640“We developed plans that not just mitigated, retained, and detained storm water, but we envisioned a future community and environment that is sustainable, healthy, and progressive.” said student Sederra Ross of Clark Atlanta University.

Students recommended that their Conceptual Plans be considered for implementation not only to improve livability at AUC, but also to ensure improved living conditions for all affected downstream communities.  Additional long-term benefits the students expect include increased systems resiliency, cleaner air and water, collection of water for reuse and for drought, and a way to lessen the impact of climate change.

The students noted that implementation of their Conceptual Plans will require having someone to nurture collaboration and cooperation among the private and public stakeholders.  Once the stakeholders agree to move forward, more complex hydrological analysis will be necessary along with cost/benefit analyses.

These issues, and others in Vine City, English Avenue, other metro-Atlanta communities and other rural Georgia communities are far from concluded.  While we celebrate this success, we recommit to standing strong together.

Green Infrastructure Conference

Come join us on April 21st for the fourth in a series of events highlighting green infrastructure options at the colleges of the Atlanta University Center (AUC).  In addition to increasing public awareness of green infrastructure and presenting student-developed conceptual plans to capture stormwater at the AUC, we also hope the conference will encourage community and AUC leaders to leverage their resources to transform these stormwater conceptual plans into “shovel ready designs.”

The conference will include student project exhibitions, a short film, plenary sessions, workshops and panel discussions.  The keynote speaker will be Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer of the Partnership for Southern Equity and Morehouse College graduate.

The conference will also feature a hands-on, green infrastructure simulation, the Green Infrastructure Lab.  If you are interested in attending the Lab, please sign up for both a Lab and a General Session ticket. Seating is limited for this session.

Students, Proctor Creek and greater Atlanta community members, environmentally-focused non profit partners and local or federal government organizations are welcome to attend this event. Admission is free. Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided to participants who register.

The Green Infrastructure Initiative at the Atlanta University Center project is funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Urban Waters Small Grants program.

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Lunching and Learning to Revitalize Proctor Creek and Nearby Communities

What’s going on at Proctor Creek? What efforts are ongoing there? How can non profits, agencies and the City of Atlanta work together to revitalize the Creek along with the residents who live near it?

Photo courtesy Ivory Young

Photo courtesy Ivory Young

Community members, Proctor Creek supporters, Fulton County and City of Atlanta staff participated in a City of Atlanta Lunch and Learn sponsored by District 3 Councilmember Ivory Young on Friday October 30th to hear more about just this At the event, held in the Old Council Chambers of City, Hall, representatives of ECO-Action, the Community Improvement Association, the Conservation Fund, Proctor Creek Stewardship Council and the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance provided updates on the wide range of ongoing initiatives in the Proctor Creek Watershed. By providing a forum where community organizations might inform City government officials of these initiatives and highlight proposed activities, Councilmember Young hoped to identify ways that agencies might work in partnership with community organizations to meet these needs.

ECO-Action’s presentation focused on the next steps in implementing community projects identified though the completion of the Proctor Creek Health Survey. Since the survey data was collected and analyzed late last year, ECO-Action and Emory University, who together led the effort to complete the survey, have been meeting with interested Vine City and English Avenue community members to identify next steps to reduce the impact of flooding on public health. Community members identified six key goals for future action arising from the study findings. These areas were:

  1. Educate to promote lifestyle change (personal action)
  2. Facilitate home repair, maintenance and pest control (individual/landlord action)
  3. Provide smart relocation resources (personal action and support through a resource support system for relocation)
  4. Promote individual and community-wide green infrastructure as a method to prevent and reduce flooding and sewer overflows (personal and City action)
  5. Provide services and support for people with asthma (personal, physician and Fulton County Health Department action)
  6. Advocate for public policy promoting healthy homes (collective action geared toward City and Fulton County Health Departments)

ECO-Action’s Dr. Yomi presented six community-identified strategies that have been develop to achieve these goals. These strategies would enhance rental unit maintenance, senior home maintenance, pest control, assist individuals in smart relocation and provide additional community education about mold remediation, pest control and green infrastructure through a series of awareness workshops.

Other presentations made at the Lunch and Learn addressed:

Photo courtesy Na'Taki Osborne-Jelks

Photo courtesy Na’Taki Osborne-Jelks

  1. Capacity building for the Proctor Creek Stewardship Council presented by Darryl Haddock, a representative of the Council;
  2. Proctor Creek Citizen Science Programs presented by Na’Taki Osborne-Jelks of the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance;
  3. Advancing Community Greenway and Green Infrastructure Visioning presented by Stacy Funderburke with the Conservation Fund;
  4. Atlanta Urban Environmental Resources Center presented by Tony Torrence, of the Vine City Community Improvement Association.

As each of these initiatives were presented, Councilmember Young identified ongoing City efforts that might complement them and provided suggestions for additional funding and partnerships.

There’s a great deal happening near the Creek. Working together, non profits, City government and citizens can enhance both the vitality and the beauty of this resource in our midst while improving the lives and livelihood of those living nearest to it.