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.

ECO-Action Hosts First Green Infrastructure Community Forum at Spelman

20150317_143643On March 17th, ECO-Action hosted its first community forum on green infrastructure at Spelman College. About 80 students, faculty, staff and community members attended the forum that was held at the Manley Center.  The 4-hour forum shared information about green infrastructure itself, current green infrastructure projects at Spelman, in Atlanta and at colleges across the United States and asked participants to identify next steps toward promoting green infrastructure at the Atlanta University Center (AUC) campuses. This forum is part of ECO-Action’s Green Infrastructure Initiative funded by EPA through the Urban Waters Small Grant program.

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After a welcome to the event from ECO-Action Executive Director Yomi Noibi and a welcome to the Spelman Campus by Nataki Osborne Jelks, remarks were also made by Professor  Olu Olatidoye, Dual Degree Engineering Program, Clark Atlanta University and James Gaittina, the Director of Water Protection of EPA Region IV.

The first element of the forum was a panel discussion moderated by Walt Ray, Park Pride’s Director of Visioning, Panel speakers were Tony Torrence, (Vine City), Community Improvement Association, Cory Rayburn, City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Protection,  Michael Mitchell, EPA Region IV, Pamela Flores, HELP.ORG and Shannon Lee of the Conservation Fund.  Presentation topics included: Green Infrastructure and the Control of Stormwater, Green Infrastructure in the City of Atlanta and Community Driven Green Infrastructure at the Lindsay Street Park. Remarks were also made by the Honorable Mable Thomas, Georgia State Representative during the morning session. Michael May of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper also provided an update on ongoing water quality monitoring efforts in the Proctor Creek watershed.

While the morning presentations provided information from community members,20150317_125234 (599x800) non profits and governmental organizations outside of the AUC, the second part, the afternoon session focused on ongoing green infrastructure projects at the colleges and student initiatives. One of the most relevant presentations was made by Ruth Wangia who talked about green infrastructure at Spelman College. Her presentation highlighted efforts that have been already accomplished to reduce impervious area by reducing pavement, disconnect downspouts from the stormwater system, install cisterns for rainwater storage and reuse and plant rain gardens and xeriscaping. She also noted that a second generation rain garden design which incorporates bioretention is planned for the new wellness center at Green Hall.  She noted that these elements are being incorporated in new projects and renovations upon the direction of the Sustainable Spelman initiative, a coalition of students, faculty and staff seeking to enhance sustainability on the Spelman campus.

Other student presentations were made by Clark Atlanta students, Ogechi Ironidi and Sederra Ross.  Ogechi described a design proposal to install a fountain and cistern system at the “Bird Cage, ” a low lying area on Clark Atlanta’s campus located north of Fair Street at Elm Street.  Sederra’s presentation talked about the current efforts of the Living Green Club to collect trash and recyclable materials. They meet at 3 pm on  Sundays in front of the CAU library and welcome additional volunteers.

She also presented the Club’s plan to create the Brianna Ford Revitalization Center as a central work location for the sorting and processing of recyclable materials that would serve all of the AUC campuses.  The Center would be named in memory of Brianna Ford, a Living Green Club founder, who had been killed in a car accident.

20150317_142232 (800x600)The forum concluded with a small group exercise to identify next steps. The steps identified not only focused on green infrastructure but also looked at efforts toward recycling and trash collection to prevent materials from being conveyed into Proctor Creek. We will be making the summaries of these proposed next steps available on this website in the near future.

Walt Ray noted that the AUC contributes about 22 million gallons of stormwater to the Proctor Creek Watershed. The Vine City and English Avenue communities, immediately downstream of  the AUC have been subject to flooding due to runoff from the colleges and other upstream locations to the east of Northside Drive. The implementation of small and large green infrastructure projects can reduce the AUC contribution to these flooding problems. ECO-Action hopes that though showing affected parties what is possible and connecting AUC students, faculty and staff to the downstream communities members, we will gain the momentum to implement these green infrastructure solutions together.

AUC students, faculty and staff can still get involved in this Initiative which will continue through mid-2016.  Contact ECO-Action for additional information.

Related story: ECO-Action Hosts First Green Infrastructure Community Forum at Spelman