environment more sustainable
what we could become if we took advantage of our extraordinary location: the green crossroads of New England
green400: environment more sustainable
Already, there have been undertaken significant efforts to be one of the greenest regions in New England. In 2018, Hartford adopted an award-winning Climate Action Plan. There’s been national recognition for our environmental efforts in agriculture, renewable energy, active transportation, and riverfront renewal, but there’s more to be done as climate change threats become direr. The region should continue to push to become a national leader in cleaning up our environment. We must ensure that more people connect environmental stewardship with improving public health, advancing the economy, and promoting social equity.
Areas of Focus: Climate/Energy, Rivers/Parks/Trails, Agriculture/Open Space
Recommendations & Actions
Agriculture & Open Space
The Valley’s deep and fertile soil has made it an agricultural powerhouse for centuries. While the last 60 years have seen much farmland converted to suburban use, thousands of acres are still productive and more could be returned to farming by leveraging recent trends and market demand. Consumers today value organic produce from local growers, especially family farms. The growing number of Valley brewers, vintners, and restaurateurs prefer to source local hops, grapes, and vegetables, and climate change is likely to expand regional crop capacity.
Agriculture creates jobs, preserves open space and natural beauty, and support cultural tourism. Regional farmers and purveyors can partner with UConn, whose roots are in advanced agricultural research, to produce new crops and hybrids. Expanded offerings from wineries, breweries, coffee roasters, artisan cheesemakers and chocolate makers can combine agriculture, entrepreneurship, and cultural tourism to enhance our economy and quality of place.
The amount of greenery in the Valley is a valuable asset that sets us apart from many other regions. Open space protects valuable parts of our geological heritage, and provides recreational opportunities, enhances biodiversity, promotes tourism, and enhances the quality of place. Open space preserves should be enlarged, protected, and made accessible, including wetlands, meadows, pastures, reserves, and forests.
Climate & Energy
The City of Hartford has been a leader in managing climate change and is part of a national consortium. Its Climate Stewardship Initiative and Office of Sustainability should be expanded Valley-wide.
We must expand efforts to reduce emissions from transport and fossil fuels, and increase the use of renewable energy. We must promote more sustainable forms of urban development, including transit-adjacent downtowns and town centers which are dense, vibrant, and connected.
CRCOG is working with a consultant to strategize a regional solution to this problem in light of the MIRA plant closure.
Nearly all of the region’s waste is trucked to other parts of the country to be put in landfills. This dramatically increases the cost of waste management and imposes environmental justice issues on other communities, generated by us. Meanwhile, recycling needs to be dramatically expanded. This can be achieved through public policy and legislation; financial support for start-up companies in recycling and composting; and promotional campaigns to engage and educate the general public.
Integrate transportation and land use planning to create sustainable urban development patterns which reduce consumption of fossil fuels.
Rivers & Parks & Trails
Conversations are underway about a “regional asset district”, which would source and share funding for the organizations that run destinations in the region.
Parks are essential to quality of place. They offer a range of social, economic, health, and recreational benefits, and can attract new residents and investors. The Valley has a rich tradition of setting aside parkland, including the first publicly-funded urban park in the nation, and Hartford’s famous green ring, the “Rain of Parks”. Yet today many municipalities, under fiscal duress, struggle to maintain their park properties and programs. A new Valley-wide parks consortium can help find ways to fairly spread the burden and cost of maintaining parks across the region, with ideas such as a regional parks fund, and joint promotion of Valley parks.
The Valley and the Capital City are benefiting from the renewed interest in living in towns and cities. Denser, vibrant urban spaces connected to transit provide unique quality of life benefits and enhanced sustainability. We should continue to enhance and expand our networks of high-quality, active, walkable public spaces – squares, plazas, commons, gardens, streets, alleys, and sidewalks – in our downtowns, town centers, and along major avenues.
In cities around the world, restored rivers and riverfronts have catalyzed economic and social renewal. The Connecticut River provides the same opportunity. But because of its powerful seasonal flooding, the Valley’s towns and cities have historically pulled back from the river, with barriers and obstructions rising in their place. Much has already been accomplished to transform the river from a polluted waterway to a valuable asset, inlcuding Riverfront Recapture, and the creation of the National Blueway. Continuing this renewal is the centerpiece of Hartford400, especially in the core segment from Wethersfield to Windsor, flanked by Hartford and East Hartford. The strategic emphasis is to enhance our quality of place by connecting town and city centers to the river while addressing the challenges of flooding and rising sea levels.
The protection and enhancement of the river involves a complex array of agencies and jurisdictions, from Federal to local. We need a Valley River Consortium to coordinate these efforts. It would include, among others: Army Corps of Engineers, EPA, Connecticut DEEP, river conservancies, Riverfront Recapture, Connecticut River Heritage Trail, and the 15 towns with river frontage. Rising sea levels make such regional cooperation urgent, and provide the opportunity to position ourselves as leaders and innovators in waterfront resilience.
The City of Hartford has been allocated $200,000 to study the specific needs in future repair work on the walls and berms.
The floodwalls which protect Hartford and East Hartford are nearly 70 years old, and need significant repairs to ensure their viability. These repairs should be carefully coordinated with planned and proposed changes to the highway system and riverfront, particularly with respect to I-91, the 84-91 interchange, the East Hartford “mixmaster”, and the proposed River Road along downtown Hartford’s riverfront.
Agriculture & Open Space: Planning for Agriculture – A Guide for Connecticut Municipalities (2016), Connecticut’s Agricultural Heritage – An Architectural and Historical Overview (2012), Handbook of Connecticut Agriculture (1901), Connecticut Working Lands Alliance (workinglandsalliance.org), Connecticut Chapter, National Organic Farming Association, Connecticut Wine Trail, Wildlands and Woodlands – Farmlands and Communities: Broadening the Vision for New England (2017), Connecticut Forest and Park Association, Trap Rock Ridges of Connecticut: Natural History and Land Use (2013), PBS Sharing Connecticut – Thrall Family Farm
Climate & Energy: Hartford Climate Stewardship Initiative (hartfordclimate.org)
Rivers & Parks & Trails: Connecticut Forest and Park Association, Hartford’s Parks (Green Ribbon Task Force 2011), Economic Impact of Greenways Literature Review (2015), Emerald Networks Hartford (Sasaki 2016), Capital City Parks Guide (Sasaki 2014), Trust for Public Land project, The iQuilt Plan, Riverfront Recapture, Hartford Flood Control System Overview and Status (2016), Connecticut River Heritage Trail, Crossing the Connecticut (Wright 1908)