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Environmental Planning: Greening by Doing

 

by Nancy Smith and David Kriger, MCIP

Introduction

The “Green Planning Theme” sponsored eleven sessions and one mobile workshop. The sessions mainly addressed planning practice, but academia also was well represented. All sessions were well attended; many were standing room only. They covered a wide range of interests, which fall into three broad topics: sustainable development; greenways and bikeways for cycling and walking; and tools for green design.

1. Sustainable Development

As evidenced by three Conference sessions, how to make it happen is the hot topic in sustainability.

For example, what does a sustainable community look like? Garrison Woods, the award-winning CFB Calgary re-use, and the proposed Southeast False Creek redevelopment in Vancouver, showed what could be achieved with the right combination of techniques, ideas, backers and consultations.

Or, how we measure progress on a city’s sustainability goals? Hamilton used extensive public input to design practical indicators, which are updated every few years. Speakers stressed that indicators had many other roles, including plan formulation, but the indicators had to be tailored to a city’s individual circumstances to be effective.

To many, the goals of ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Sustainable Development’ are interchangeable. The third session examined how the Vancouver and Ottawa regions are acting locally to achieve global Climate Change goals, and gave special attention to overcoming institutional barriers. The session also explained how the emerging Federal presence in urban affairs presents both challenges and opportunities for planners.

The sustainability theme was rounded out by a highly successful mobile workshop on identifying sustainable neighbourhoods.

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2. “Greenways”

Planning for pedestrians and bicycles has developed into a sophisticated and specialized field, and has moved well beyond wishful thinking to detailed planning and success. Ottawa’s vaunted bikeways and pedestrian paths provided the focus and the venue for three sessions on the integration of these alternative transportation modes into the urban fabric, as well as a cycling tour guide for planners. A panel described how two very different cities - Ottawa and Kelowna – identified and resolved policy, planning and design issues for travel by “two wheels or two legs.” A walking tour of central Ottawa showed off “concrete” examples of bicycle facilities, both dedicated and shared-use. Tour walkers also saw how road and bridge rehabilitation has incorporated bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly designs.

A third session looked at how greenways and bicycle paths responded to public needs and acceptance. A survey of public attitudes in Toronto and Windsor showed that – combined with improvements to bicycling facilities – bicycling is an attractive travel choice in both cities. A study in Surrey found that, statistically, the perception that greenways increase crime was not justified. Moreover, greenways actually increased property values, in some neighbourhoods.

Three Yellow Dots and Much More: A Cycling Tour Guide for Planners was put to good use by visitors and resident planners alike, and added further information on practical measures to support cycling.

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3. Tools for Green Design

Five sessions demonstrated how different ‘tools’ could be applied to different aspects of green planning and design. Sometimes, the best tools were those that allowed us to look at the same thing from another perspective. This was demonstrated by one session that examined watershed planning (which transcend traditional planning boundaries and perspectives). In another session, natural habitat planning in eastern Ontario transcended not only local but international boundaries, using the Algonquin to Adirondacks area as a base for planning.

Sometimes the planning tool is the presentation format itself: One green design session took participants through the planning of a high-growth rural road corridor near Ottawa, and then had participants rank capital projects for the corridor. Another used a workshop format to guide participants through the design of conservation strategies for a large natural space outside Ottawa. Finally, two other sessions showed how public-private partnerships were used as tools to develop parks and open spaces in Victoria and Toronto, and to conserve sensitive lands in major developments in Edmonton.

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The ‘Green Theme’ speakers showed just how far environmental issues have come in planning circles. Green is now a mainstream (dare we say maturing?) subject; taken seriously by developers and policy makers alike – of course, there remains much to do to give planning decisions the full benefit of the environmental perspective. Underlying all Green presentations were two themes: the actual practice of green planning and the importance of partnerships to make things happen. Planners took home lots of practical, ‘can-do’ strategies and techniques. Thanks to the ‘Green’ speakers and moderators, as well as the Green Theme sub-committee (Mary Anne Strong; David Miller; Sandy Hay; David Kriger; Nancy Smith), for a job well done!

Nancy Smith chaired the Green Planning Theme. Nancy is sole proprietor of her own planning and mediation firm, and has a life long interest in green planning. David Kriger, MCIP, served as alternate chair. David is a Principal with Delcan Corporation in Ottawa, and has worked across Canada and overseas on Climate Change and sustainable transportation issues. Reach Nancy at nancylou@cyberus.ca and David at d.kriger@delcan.com.

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Diversity:
Introduction
Sustainable Development
"Greenways"
Tools for Green Design

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