Green Infrastructure In Our Own Backyard

Green infrastructure exists all around us, and yet most people probably wouldn’t be able to point to an example of it, let alone be able to describe what it is. Atlanta is a hotbed for sustainable developments, thanks in large part to the commitment of City offices and agencies. Green infrastructure is a cost-effective approach to mitigating flooding and stormwater runoff, while promoting the construction of natural parks and greenspaces that enhance a community’s health and wellbeing. Over the past several years, Atlanta has introduced several green infrastructure projects across the metro area that have helped improve community vibrancy and economic growth:

Historic Fourth Ward Park: Probably the most prominent example of green infrastructure in Atlanta, the Historic Fourth Ward Park is a 2-acre pond and revitalized development area. Located off of the Atlanta Beltline, the area was once mired by excessive stormwater runoff, resulting in property and infrastructure damage from flooding. Today, the Park is a stunning visual centerpiece surrounded by large open greenspace that serves as a focal point for the surrounding neighborhood development. The Park also brings major economic and environmental benefits, effectively managing stormwater runoff through its detention basin and increasing natural habitat. According to the City’s Green Infrastructure Strategic Action Plan, the redevelopment saved the City more than $15 million compared to a more conventional stormwater management system.

Lindsay Street Park: Located in the Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods adjacent to downtown Atlanta, Lindsay Street Park is a green infrastructure development brought about by The Conservation Fund and Park Pride. This densely-built urban area lacked greenspace areas that can help bring the community together, and its heavy development over the past several decades all but destroyed the Proctor Creek watershed system that runs through the neighborhood, resulting in flooding and sewer system overflow. The green infrastructure project began in 2010 and was community-driven. Today, the site is home to the local community’s first park and has provided job-training and skill development for individuals involved in site planning and construction. Rain gardens in the park also provide natural stormwater filtration that minimizes flooding.

Southeast Atlanta Green Infrastructure Initiative: In 2012, the Peoplestown neighborhood in Southeast Atlanta was affected by severe flooding following a heavy weather event. The City of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management were able to identify issues with the Custer Avenue Combined Sewer Overflow basin, which played a role in the stormwater management of the area. After conducting reviews, the Department of Watershed Management was able to install bioswales and rain gardens that would allow for more natural stormwater retention. A five million gallon stormwater tank was placed under a parking lot near Turner Field and, most recently, six miles of permeable pavers were installed throughout the Peoplestown, Mechanicsville, and Summerhill neighborhoods. Unlike asphalt or cement sidewalks which cause puddling and flash flooding, permeable pavers have voids between each paver through which the stormwater goes through.

Green infrastructure has become a prominent initiative for the City of Atlanta, spearheaded by former Atlanta mayor, Kasim Reed. Now under new mayoral leadership, the City of Atlanta doesn’t show signs of slowing down its development and investment in green infrastructure projects that will, ultimately, benefit local communities. Current projects for the City include Boone Boulevard and the highly-anticipated Bellwood Quarry, which plans to incorporate various types of green infrastructure.

Southface is an active contributor in dialogue around the need for and design of green infrastructure projects. The organization recently launched its Green Infrastructure and Resilience Institute (GIRI), which aims to deploy and implement green infrastructure projects across metro Atlanta. To learn more about GIRI, click here.

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