Joint Press Release from Alliance for the Great Lakes, Detroit Greenways Coalition, Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc., Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability

Detroit, MI (July 10, 2018) – New ideas for reducing flooding along Detroit’s Conner Creek Greenway utilizing nature-based solutions, often referred to as “green infrastructure”, will be unveiled at a community celebration later today at the Samaritan Center. Over the past year, environmental groups, researchers, and engineers teamed up with residents living near the greenway to identify and develop five green infrastructure project proposals. Tonight’s community celebration provides a first look at the proposals for community members, elected, and agency officials.

Flooding in streets and homes after heavy rain events is a consistent problem for Detroiters, causing safety issues and costing residents millions of dollars in repairs each year. Residents along the the Conner Creek Greenway, a recreation trail that courses along Conner Avenue from 8 Mile Road to the Detroit River, frequently experience flooding during heavy rain events. Over the past year, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Detroit Greenways Coalition, the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc., and the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability teamed up with residents living in the area to explore solutions.

The groups and area residents focused on using green infrastructure as one method to begin to address neighborhood flooding problems. In addition to helping to alleviate flooding, green infrastructure can provide community benefits like neighborhood beautification, improved public health, and creation of parks and green spaces. Green infrastructure uses plants and soil to mimic how nature deals with water. It absorbs, slows down, and filters rainwater before the water reaches stormwater pipes or waterways.

Beginning last September, the groups started gathering community input through surveys and community meetings. More than 45 area residents participated in community meetings over the winter and spring, working with technical experts to identify sites along the greenway for green infrastructure projects.

Five possible sites along the greenway – Conner Playfield, Lipke Park/SAY Detroit Play, Southeastern High School, St. John Medical Center-Outer Drive Campus, and a vacant lot owned by the Detroit Land Bank at Conner & Clairpointe – were selected. The proposed projects at these sites include a range of green infrastructure practices, including rain gardens, bioretention ponds, trees, and permeable pavement, that increase stormwater capture capacity at the site and add desired amenities and aesthetic improvements along flood-prone areas of the greenway. Community groups are currently seeking funding to implement these projects and monitor results.

Residents also worked with a 3-D green infrastructure computer modeling program developed by the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability. They used the model to create their own designs for additional sites and the university researchers used resident feedback to improve the modeling program.

“Detroit has an incredible opportunity to become a leader in using green infrastructure in the Great Lakes region. Reducing stormwater problems helps our communities and all of the waterways flowing into the lakes,” said Alliance for the Great Lakes Community Sustainability Planner Khalil Ligon. “We’re excited that these project ideas were developed from the neighborhood up. Thank you to the community members who participated in the project development workshops.”

“We believe there is tremendous synergy when greenways and green infrastructure are planned and built together, “ said Detroit Greenways Coalition Executive Director Todd Scott. “We look forward to implementing the many green infrastructure candidate projects along the Conner Creek Greenway and helping Detroit become a more mobile and more sustainable city.”

“Detroit has an amazing opportunity to be a leader in green infrastructure that, apart from effectively managing stormwater, also provides quality of life benefits to neighborhoods that need and deserve it,” said Great Lakes Environmental Law Center Executive Director & Managing Attorney Oday Salim.

“Green infrastructure plays an increasingly important role in improving urban environmental quality, the health and well-being of city residents, and is an essential ingredient in resilient urban centers like Detroit.” said University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Mark Lindquist. “Our collaboration with the Alliance for the Great Lakes and communities from along the Conner Creek Greenway helped us develop a computer-based landscape visualization tool that places green infrastructure planning firmly into the hands of community members.”

“We have appreciated the opportunity to assist the Alliance for the Great Lakes in this project, which aims to thoughtfully move Detroit through water resiliency planning and into implementation of sound technical green stormwater infrastructure. It was especially rewarding to the ECT team to have this opportunity to collaborate with the diverse group of partners and stakeholders that represent broad interests on green stormwater management solutions,” said Environmental Consulting & Technology Director of Landscape Architecture/Green Infrastructure Studio Patrick Judd.

The project was funded in part by the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation.

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For more information contact: Jennifer Caddick, (312) 445-9760, jcaddick@greatlakes.org