We think of our local parks as a green oasis in our communities. In addition to being great places to play and beautiful to enjoy, they also can incorporate green infrastructure to help communities with managing stormwater, protecting wellheads, and ensuring clean water.
Green infrastructure provides municipal leaders and elected officials an additional reason and benefit to support the acquisition, planning, development, and maintenance of public recreation areas because it helps improve water quality and minimize flooding.
It also can provide opportunities for leveraging funding sources from other agencies and organizations outside of the traditional park and recreation realm.
For many years, DCNR has been working with communities and non-profit organizations to plan, acquire, develop and rehabilitate publicly owned conservation areas, parks, trails and waterway access points.
Recently, the department is leading an effort to plant forest buffers along waterways and investing in community tree planting.
What is green infrastructure?
Think of green infrastructure as a network of natural and semi-natural systems that manage stormwater runoff by slowing the rate of water flow, and filtering out harmful pollutants before they drain into waterways.
DCNR supports green elements in park and trail rehabilitation projects such as:
- Porous pavement and asphalt for basketball and tennis courts
- Permeable pavement in parking lots, overflow areas, trails, walkways
- Trees plantings, infiltration basins, and drainage areas to temporary storage tanks that can be utilized for irrigation
- Forest buffer habitat along streams, use of native trees and plants, pollinator gardens
- Bio-retention gardens, green roofs, rain barrels, cisterns, rain gardens at concession stands, maintenance sheds, restrooms, and visitor centers
- Porous pavement and asphalt, and bio swales for trails and pathways
Once these elements are incorporated, it’s great to help park users learn from the community’s example with educational signage, and even with educational programs.
In addition to the community revitalization and potential economic benefits, the federal government notes green infrastructure can enhance the diversity of park users; improve recreational value of parks; and create attractive park features.
And, when communities reduce flooding from stormwater runoff overflow in recreation areas, there’s more time to play due to less flooding of fields!
Funding for local parks with green infrastructure
DCNR offers grant funding for park and other outdoor recreation projects that can help municipalities with stormwater reduction. There is technical assistance and financial support for grants from a variety of funding sources including the Keystone and Environmental Stewardship funds and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Learn more about green and sustainable community parks, grants, and how the department can help on the DCNR website.
Be Stormwater Smart
Of course, parks aren’t the only places communities can and should address stormwater.
DEP is working with communities to improve water quality and manage stormwater. Leaders from Lemoyne Borough, Lower Paxton and Susquehanna townships, and Harrisburg’s Capital Region Water share perspectives on tackling the stormwater management challenge in the DEP video Stormwater Management: Perspectives from Four Pennsylvania Municipalities.
Green parks are one option, but all communities and citizens are encouraged to be #StormwaterSmartPA.