Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure Project: A Step Towards Sustainable Development
In Norwalk, CT, the Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure project is an excellent example of how sustainable development can be achieved through the integration of green infrastructure. Sustainable development is a concept that emphasizes the importance of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. With the integration of green infrastructure into urban development, we can mitigate these impacts while still creating livable and functional spaces. In this blog post, we will discuss the Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure project, its benefits, and its potential to inspire similar projects in other areas.
What is Blue Urbanism and Why Does It Matter?
We are living in a time when the global average temperature is rising, the sea levels and flooding risk due to climate change are increasing, and the quality and level of our water resources has become threatened. Prolonged drought is contributing to shortages on one hand, with extreme weather leading to increased rainfall, floods, mudslides and hurricanes at other times. It’s during this era that Blue Urbanism calls us all into action. At its core, Blue Urbanism asks us "how we terrestrial urbanites" can steward and take care of these vital waterways around us - rivers that give life to fish species as well as plants; lakes that not only provide drinking water but also recreation for city-dwellers; beaches over which many children learn about nature from awe to respect; estuaries with stunning natural beauty enriched by human craftsmanship—the list goes on. Through Timothy Beatley’s book Blue Urbanism, he highlights imaginative ways each person can make a difference in order to help develop healthier coastal cities where people feel safer playing outdoors and no longer fear contamination or loss of their natural habitats - developing habitats for marine wildlife, implementing new tools or practices to clean up waste and pollution, restoring and developing waterside locations to cultivate resident and tourist connections, and more. In this blog post, we explore why it matters that Norwalk Residents come together to understand what Blue Urbanism means and harness its capacity – so come join us!
What is Blue Urbanism?Blue Urbanism has been gaining traction in the field of urban design as a framework for “living lightly across the land and waterscape”. Timothy Beatley, PhD, coined this term in 2005 and ever since it has been praised by architecture professionals for its ability to create thriving cities with an emphasis on sustainable development practices. Timothy's vision for Blue Urbanism involves integrating urban sites with the surrounding water features, fostering regenerative ecosystems that are self-sustaining and resilient in nature. His emphasis is not only on developing positive relationships between humans and our environment but also between different communities and social classes. Timothy's ideas have become increasingly popular due to increased awareness about climate change, as well as improved urban designs that are designed around sustainability. Blue Urbanism will continue to shape the way cities are developed, enabling smart growth initiatives that benefit everyone from citizens to business owners alike -all while protecting some of the most fragile ecosystems on earth!
The Need for Blue Urbanism and Its ImpactIn recent years, urban planners and city officials have begun to recognize the importance of blue urbanism, which emphasizes the preservation and protection of water sources within and around cities. Through various initiatives like connecting parks and public spaces to bodies of water and cleaning up waterways, blue urbanism can foster an improved relationship between people and the rivers, lakes and oceans carved out by nature in our constructed environments. This is an important step towards managing our climate crisis responsibly while also reaping the economic, cultural, recreational and health benefits that access to clean water facilitates.
Challenges to Blue UrbanismBlue Urbanism poses a visionary approach to urban development, ushering in a greener and healthier future. However, there are numerous challenges posed by making this vision a reality. The planning and implementation phases require extensive interdisciplinary research to ensure that all stakeholders - such as industry partners and communities who call the city home - are truly supported by this transformative shift in how we build our cities. Financing is also another great challenge, requiring strategic investments from both the public and private sectors if this sustainable urban model is to thrive. Lastly, Blue Urbanism must be developed from within the community – which means engaging and working with local citizens in order for them to understand their environmental responsibility and create meaningful urban spaces for themselves and for future generations.
Embracing Blue Urbanism Through Education, Engagement, and StewardshipNorwalk is embracing Blue Urbanism by educating the public on water health, engaging in activities to protect our water resources, and creating an environment conducive to stewardship of Norwalk Watershed. Through collaborations with local organizations, Norwalk aims to foster better understanding of our watersheds and provide hands-on opportunities that empower citizens to take protective steps. Norwalk recognizes the power of citizen-centric solutions and will continue investing in educational programs and community engagement strategies that offer citizens the chance to participate in environmental stewardship efforts. In doing so, Norwalk is committed to preserving Norwalk's waters for generations to come.
Successful Examples from Around the WorldBlue urbanism is an approach coastal cities and city development groups can seek to find the balance between the protection, enjoyment, and proper use of water resources. Across the world, numerous cities have explored this developing way of looking at waterfronts, with stunning results. In Baltimore, the city and its residents have partnered with BioHabitats and the Living Classrooms Foundation to develop Oyster Gardens and Floating Wetlands that now span an area of approximately 2,000 sq. feet. These initiatives support their local marine habitats, remove pollution, and serve as educational tools. From creating efficient stormwater management systems and mangrove reforestation initiatives in China to rebuilding hurricane-devastated towns in Cuba, successful examples of blue urbanism are popping up everywhere. In these projects, locals often take a leading role in recreating their own environments while city planners and architects bring innovation to the processes, allowing for responsible and beneficial development with exceptional beauty.
In ConclusionBlue urbanism offers a great opportunity to improve our lives and the environment. By looking out for the health of our oceans and watersheds, we can ensure that future generations have access to clean water and healthy ecosystems. Furthermore, this approach can help reduce the carbon footprint in our cities by utilizing natural infrastructure and features such as parks and green roofs that each contribute to a healthier urban environment. With blue urbanism leading the way, we can make positive changes that will benefit both current and future generations. If you have questions or want to get more involved in our initiatives, contact us today!
Resilient South Norwalk Project
January 12, 2023 Public WorkshopClimate change has made areas that are prone to flooding or extreme heat more vulnerable. The Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) initiated Resilient Connecticut in 2018 to plan for these weather-related challenges. CIRCA has identified Norwalk as a community that is not only subject to impacts from our changing climate but also has vulnerable populations and critical infrastructure that could be affected. Circa, in partnership with the Norwalk Planning & Zoning Department, will conduct an initial look at potential flooding resilience efforts and impact in South Norwalk. To lead this effort, CIRCA has brought on the consulting firm AECOM to help address these issues related to climate change and resilience. In South Norwalk, CIRCA research has shown that flood risks from storm surges, tidal flooding, heavy rain, and stormwater pose public safety issues for residents such as storm damage to buildings and infrastructure and access to lifelines, and evacuation routes during storms. In addition, much of the South Norwalk area is vulnerable to extreme heat because of the limited tree canopy, which the City is addressing, while also reducing the high amount of impervious surface. South Norwalk is home to a diverse population of residents with varying access to resources. Residents with fewer available resources - whether due to income, housing, age, transportation, or language access - are less able to adapt, and are therefore, more vulnerable to climate change.
Goal of Resilient South NorwalkThe Resilient South Norwalk Project’s goal is to develop strategies and adaptations that will help reduce the impact of climate-induced flooding and of extreme heat on the community’s residents, City infrastructure, and transportation, as well as improve the adjacent, valuable ecological systems. The kinds of solutions that may be considered are road elevations or relocations, flood protection systems, green infrastructure for stormwater management, increasing the tree canopy, and building retrofits for heat mitigation. As part of the project, Norwalk will review existing conditions and analysis by CIRCA on flooding and areas with extreme heat, as well as any current plans.
Planning Areas and ActivitiesThe plan will focus on three zones in South Norwalk, identified on the map above as North, Central, and South. Within those zones the study will look at the following:
- Creating flood mitigation options and needed adjustments to critical transportation corridors
- Maintaining dry emergency evacuation corridors when it floods, as well as reducing flooding of critical community assets
- Establishing “resilient corridors” to maintain access for residents, emergency vehicles, and critical services during storm events and flooding
- Assessing how land is used, the density of buildings, particularly in areas with vulnerable populations
- Reducing the impact of extreme temperatures and “heat islands” or pockets of the area that are significantly warmer than surrounding areas, including nature-based ways
Input and ParticipationThe planning team will work with the steering committee, and community stakeholders, such as neighborhood residents and businesses, to learn their priorities and then take them into consideration as they make plans. This will be done through four steering committee meetings, three public workshops, outreach materials, and updates via a website and social media. The goal is to wrap up the project in May of 2023. This CIRCA-funded project is a component of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) National Disaster Resilience Competition award to the State of Connecticut, administered by the Connecticut Department of Housing. Resilient Connecticut provides the state with funds for the design and engagement process.
Preserving Norwalk’s Trees: Norwalk, CT's Street Canopy Project
Trees provide habitats and improve the air we breathe. They help mitigate storm water, give us shade and project a sense of calmness in the world. Trees beautify both suburban and urban areas and can help reduce the heat island effect. Many states and cities are looking at ways to protect their trees by coming up with a more enlightened approach to preserving current trees and planting new ones. The question is, how can cities continue to develop and maintain the tree cover in the process? In Norwalk’s Citywide Plan, the City is tasked with protecting the natural environment. This entails not only protecting the open spaces and parks, but also its urban forestry by balancing growth and preservation. Allocating roadside space to street trees and landscaping helps improve the aesthetics of the streetscape, provides a buffer between the roadway and sidewalk to improve pedestrian comfort, and can facilitate stormwater management through bioretention features such as planters and swales. Below we take a look at how Norwalk, CT is working to enhance its tree canopy with a tree ordinance and other actions.
Norwalk's History of Tree PlantingKeeping Norwalk a tree-laden city has long been important to Norwalk. The city has had a tree planting program and a tree management plan in place for over 18 years. Key to this plan is working with liaisons from neighborhood associations. The liaisons keep an eye on all things tree-related in their area and suggest tree plantings in an effort to increase the number of trees in the city. This approach ensures that the public has oversight and input into keeping a tree canopy alive and vital in their neighborhoods. Since 2004, about 1,200 trees have been planted in the city.
Norwalk Tree OrdinanceIn Norwalk, like most cities, the more urban neighborhoods have fewer trees. Consequently, low-income neighborhoods have less tree canopy coverage, resulting in health and environmental problems such as high asthma rates. To protect the City’s existing trees, and increase Norwalk's tree canopy equitably, the Common Council approved an updated Tree Ordinance in 2021. It gave the city's tree warden expanded powers and established a legacy tree program. The tree warden is tasked with assessing or overseeing the evaluation of the city's tree canopy. This evaluation helps determine whether or not a tree may be removed or altered when it’s on public property. To do so, requires a permit from the warden. The warden may also require a tree or shrub be replaced. The warden keeps a record of the city's existing trees, creating a catalog of the important legacy trees according to their size, age, and species. The ordinance requires developers to protect a tree’s root zone during construction. The developer will also pay a bond before any work begins. Fines and penalties aim to discourage the unnecessary removal of trees. Another important change brought about by the Tree Ordinance is the establishment of a Norwalk Tree Account. This account helps fund tree planting with the use of tree-related fines and fees, and other payments as well as public and private grants. Since its establishment, grants to this account have increased, allowing the City to expand its tree planting. For example, since the Tree Ordinance was passed, tree plantings increased from 56 in the fall of 2020 to 171 in the spring of 2022.
The Tree Advisory CommitteeIn the 2021 Tree Ordinance, the duties of the Tree Advisory Committee expanded. The Committee works closely with the tree warden to recommend the types of trees to plant. They also encourage Norwalk residents to volunteer to help plant trees as part of the ongoing tree planting program. The Committee will oversee the creation of a Master Tree Plan which will include any studies made by the tree warden. The plan will assess Norwalk’s current tree canopy along with the relevant environmental, social and public health benefits, and develop strategies and actions to increase tree cover with primarily native and hybrid species of trees.
Norwalk, CT's Environmental ProjectsConcerns about environmental protection in Norwalk have led to the commitment to protect and increase Norwalk's tree canopy including urban trees throughout the city. The city is also undertaking a heat sensor study to track temperatures in various parts of the city to identify areas that may be vulnerable to extreme heat events. The results from this study will help inform tree planting and illustrate the benefits of a tree canopy. In addition, Norwalk is in the process of adopting Complete Streets legislation and design manual. These will provide guidance for designing and reconstructing our streets with the principles of safety, sustainability, and vitality. This comprehensive and cross-functional approach to maintaining and designing the public right of way will take into consideration new tree installations. Environmental projects like the Norwalk Tree Plan and Tree Ordinance recognize that trees are an integral part of a healthy ecosystem, sequestering carbon, reducing stormwater, and improving the health and well being of residents.
Resilient South Norwalk Project Looks to Combat Climate Change
Over the past few decades, South Norwalk has developed into one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Connecticut. It has excellent restaurants and shopping options and boasts a protected historic district and numerous tourist attractions. However, like much of Connecticut, it is vulnerable to the effects of climate change.In the years to come, researchers expect more extreme weather conditions that can potentially change our experiences within our cities. There is a global drive for cities to innovate and adapt to the effects of climate changes like hotter days, wildfires,more intense storms and flooding. Norwalk, CT is trying to find ways to adapt to the new realities of a changing climate. As part of the Resilient Connecticut Initiative by the Connecticut Institute For Resilience & Climate Adaptation (CIRCA), the City is studying heat, flooding and other indicators of climate change in the city so it can begin climate resilience planning. One part of this effort is placing heat sensors around Norwalk to monitor changes in temperature. Another study in the works is the Resilient South Norwalk Project. Keep reading to learn more about this project.
Why Is South Norwalk at Risk?The location of South Norwalk along the coast of Long Island Sound and the Norwalk River makes this neighborhood vulnerable to flooding. In 2012, superstorm Sandy showed the dangers of a storm surge in the community. Connecticut is already experiencing warmer temperatures and higher levels of rain. Rising sea levels and more frequent storms due to climate change are a major risk for South Norwalk. Another significant challenge is extreme heat. Urban areas are often hotter than a natural landscape. High social vulnerability in parts of South Norwalk will worsen the effects of extreme heat.
What Is the Resilient South Norwalk Project?The Resilient South Norwalk Project will analyze potential problems the community faces and come up with ways to adapt to the climate risks of flooding and extreme heat. With regard to flood mitigation in South Norwalk, there will be a review of coastal flood and storm surge frequency and magnitude to gauge the current and future impact on the neighborhood. A closer look at the area's roadway and drainage structures will also be conducted. This analysis will allow the City to develop strategies to protect people and historical places in case of flooding. The project will also study how to set up safe corridors for people to move around during major storm events affecting Norwalk, CT by finding ways to modify important road and train routes. Another part of the study will be to take a look at land use and construction trends to understand how to adapt land and infrastructure to ease episodes of extreme heat. This will focus mainly on areas of the neighborhood where people are most vulnerable.
How Can the Community Get Involved?There will be three public workshops to discuss the project, report its findings, and get feedback from the community. Residents will be able to weigh in on building trends, possible solutions to mitigate climate risks, and their needs and priorities for the future of their neighborhood. The final meeting will include a report summarizing all the research and ways to implement the recommended solutions.
Adapting the Community to Climate ChangeThe City of Norwalk believes in planning for the future. The Resilient South Norwalk Project will allow the City to pinpoint the biggest risks resulting from climate change in order properly plan how to resolve them and ensure that South Norwalk remains a vibrant place to live and visit. Contact us to get involved or learn more about this project.
Environmental Resilience Planning: Heat Study in Norwalk, CT
High temperatures can harm people and the environment. In the U.S., more than 67,000 people each year go to emergency rooms due to heat-related symptoms. With climate change, heat waves are expected to only become more frequent and severe. Learning how climate change affects our communities and how we can plan for it is critical. In Norwalk, Connecticut a study is currently being conducted to track changes in the air and surface temperatures to see how it may affect the city and its residents. Keep reading to learn more about the heat study in Norwalk, CT.
Why is Norwalk Conducting a Heat Study?During hot periods, people in urban areas experience higher temperatures than rural areas. More asphalt, higher concentration of buildings and fewer trees make cities retain more heat. This is called the Urban Heat Island Effect. Being from a temperate area, most Connecticut residents aren’t accustomed to extreme heat. As a result, area residents face a heightened risk for heat-related illnesses during times of extremely high temperatures. Studies suggest that climate change will intensify the conditions that lead to heat-related illnesses, symptoms that can even prove fatal. Norwalk has also been found a vulnerable zone by the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) in a recent Vulnerability Assessment. To prepare, Norwalk is partnering with CIRCA on resiliency projects. The heat study is part of that, and will look at changes in air and surface temperatures over time.
Norwalk, CT Heat Vulnerability Assessment
The Goals of the Heat StudyThe primary goal of the heat study is to find and map various areas in Norwalk to understand the vulnerabilities of different areas to heat. This will help the city identify at-risk areas in order to develop ways to help the community prepare for higher, more extreme temperatures, like where to place cooling centers. The study will also take a look at urbanization and rising temperatures, such as understanding how certain traffic flows affect heat output in order to put in place effective solutions to combat climate change. The data revealed by the study will also enable researchers to model inconsistencies and examine the differences between heat sensors and satellite-measured temperatures.
How the Heat Study in Norwalk, CT Will WorkTo gauge temperatures in the city, heat sensors have been placed at 13 locations around Norwalk, from Long Island Sound shorelines and parks to buildings in more urban areas. The study is being conducted from June through October 2022. The sensors are wireless, and are mounted 8-10 feet above ground on trees or poles. They will measure and monitor temperatures and relative humidity. They will also record dew point temperatures at the street level.
Learn More, Get InvolvedThe heat study in Norwalk will help find areas of the city that are vulnerable to extreme heat events to inform decisions related to public health and community planning in the years to come, including the development of a community-wide resilience plan. You can find more information at the CIRCA Norwalk Heat Study page. In the near term, the heat study will help to guide the Resilient South Norwalk Project launching in the summer of 2022 with CIRCA.
Putting the “Walk” in Norwalk: Best Local Trails to Discover
The benefits of walking have been known for a long time. Whether to improve your health, stay in shape, enjoy the fresh air, or take advantage of your natural surroundings, walking is a great way to spend leisure time. Norwalk, CT has many beautiful places to walk, whether you’re looking for natural beauty or interested in more urban, historic sites.
Trails for Nature WalksWhether you’re an experienced hiker or just looking to get your heart rate up and get in touch with nature, there are plenty of green, open spaces to enjoy. Cranbury Park is a 227 acre park that offers several wooded trails plus a gorgeous view of the historic Gallaher Mansion. This picturesque setting makes it not only the perfect place to relax and enjoy the outdoors, but the 1.5 mile trail that runs along the river is perfect for walkers and their furry friends! Dog-friendly and absolutely stunning, make plans to visit Cranbury Park to see for yourself. An alternative with better views of the water, another bike and pedestrian-friendly trail to consider is Norwalk’s Harbor Loop Trail. An easy, moderately trafficked trek, you can always find back trails for a little more privacy. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash. Oyster Shell Park can be found near the Maritime Aquarium, but don’t let it’s urban setting fool you, this park gives you a view of the Norwalk Harbor and the Norwalk River. There’s a small parking lot, a fishing pier, and for walkers, there are several paved trails for a breazy, waterside stroll. For a scenic, oceanside option, there’s a 1.5 mile loop from Shady Beach to Calf Pasture that takes you out on the peninsula so you can really breathe in that saltwater air. With a stop by the Norwalk World War I Memorial and several restrooms along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to take in the sites or take a rest stop. Experience the beauty of the Long Island Sound on this easy walk. Sharing a start point at Calf Pasture Beach, the Norwalk River Valley Trail crosses Wilton, Ridgefield, and Redding—all the way to Rogers Park in Danbury. It’s an out and back trail through the Connecticut woods, featuring a ten foot wide, multi-use path that when fully completed will go on for 30 miles.
Discover Norwalk’s DowntownTo learn more about the downtown areas of Norwalk, CT and get some exercise, Discover Norwalk has put together a number of self-guided walking tours that bring you face-to-face with some of the city’s history. On these tours, you’ll discover Norwalk’s legacy of art, heritage, and culture, passing by landmarks such as City Hall, Mill Hill, Freese Park and the Norwalk Public Library. Another great resource for walkers was developed by the Norwalk Health Department. As part of their NorWALKer Program to encourage residents to be physically active, they developed a series of NorWALKer maps with more than 40 routes through 17 city neighborhoods. No matter if you’re walking to improve or maintain your health, boost your mood, or learn about your town, Norwalk residents have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to walking trails and routes. So get out there and enjoy!
Climate Change in Connecticut and in Norwalk, CT
Did you know that the 2010s were the hottest decade ever recorded in the Earth’s history? Climate change isn’t a potential issue that we may have to deal with in the future. It’s a real problem, with global impacts that are already being seen today. Even if we can’t see the ice caps melting here in Connecticut, it’s an undeniable fact that the climate is changing our environment. To prepare for the challenges ahead, it’s good to educate yourself on the current and future impacts of climate change in CT, and the strategies the government will put in place to solve these issues. The Connecticut climate and geography are already changing. Here are some examples provided by the University of Connecticut’s Adapt CT:
Impacts of Climate Change in CT
Rising TemperaturesAll over the globe, temperatures are rising. If you live in the Northeast U.S. you may notice that the Connecticut climate in summer is growing hotter and longer every year. There are more ninety-degree days than ever before producing more heatwaves and droughts.
Vector-Borne IllnessPeople know Connecticut for the large numbers of ticks in its forests and tall grasses. In fact, Lyme disease was named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut. Warmer temperatures bring more ticks and the increased spread of pathogens.
Air PollutionThe potential for poor air quality also rises when the days are hotter. Poor air quality leads to health issues, aggravating asthma and other respiratory conditions. It can also affect the heart and cardiovascular system.
FloodingAs a coastal state, flooding is a large issue for Connecticut when it comes to climate change. Coastal marshes are flooding and drowning, which destroys crucial ecosystems, and homeowners are seeing rising flood insurance rates. Connecticut also faces an increase in precipitation. Climate change causes more intense storms, which means that a lot of rain falls from the sky all at once. That can quickly lead to flood conditions.
Sea Level RiseCoastal flooding can also be exacerbated by the impacts of sea level rise. Being a coastal community, Norwalk may be particularly impacted should the worst-case scenarios come to fruition. This could mean properties permanently or partially underwater, roads potentially underwater and infrastructure impacted. For further information on sea level rise impacts please see Chapter 9 of the Citywide Plan.
Water PollutionPollution from fossil fuel emissions and rainwater runoff hurts many rivers and bodies of water. These bodies of water include the Long Island Sound, and here in Norwalk, Norwalk Harbor, and the Norwalk River.Polluted runoff can negatively impact water-based economies such as shellfishing and recreation.
Solutions to Climate Change in CT and NorwalkThe state of Connecticut and city governments are working on solutions to both mitigate the effects of climate change, or make adaptations. Here are some examples of climate actions and plans:
Renewable EnergyThe state government has dedicated itself to the decrease of fossil fuel emissions by promoting renewable energy sources. The Global Warming Solutions Act sets targets to reduce emissions by 80% from 2001 levels by 2050. In Connecticut, the transportation sector gives off the largest percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. As part of the state’s effort to reduce greenhouse gasses, the EVConnecticut program is funding the creation and set-up of electric car charging stations throughout the state encouraging residents to buy electric cars. In Norwalk, EV stations have been set up in a number of municipal parking areas, including the South Norwalk train station and Maritime Garage.
Water and Wetland ProtectionIn Norwalk, about 22% of residents have private drinking water wells that draw mainly from bedrock aquifers. The Norwalk Aquifer Protection Agency was established in 2009 to regulate businesses located nearby the aquifers to make sure your drinking water isn’t polluted. The Norwalk Conservation Commission and Inland Wetlands Agency enforces the State and City’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Regulations. The Commission has a compliance officer who reviews building permits for wetlands issues. Another example of water protection is Norwalk’s partnership with Harbor Watch, an environmental organization, to identify, locate, and eliminate illegal discharges into drainage areas, coastal areas and rivers.
Stormwater ManagementThe city of Norwalk is taking direct action to prevent stormwater from polluting its rivers and flooding its city streets. For example, the Norwalk Harbor Management Commission created a plan to manage stormwater runoff from the Yankee Doodle I-95 bridge. Additionally, the city is promoting green infrastructure and low impact development as a way to reduce runoff and facilitate on-site infiltration of stormwater. These measures not only reduce pollution of inland and coastal waters, they can play an important role in reducing flooding.
Combating the Causes of Climate Change in CTEven though we’re already experiencing the effects of climate change and global warming, the state and local governments are working hard to promote actionable solutions. Norwalk is part of Sustainable CT, a voluntary certification program founded by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and other partners. Norwalk recently achieved a bronze certification from the group in recognition of the community’s sustainability accomplishments. To learn more about the changing climate in Norwalk, CT, and how the City is planning for it, see pages 141 - 161 of the 10-year Citywide Plan.
See the Citywide Plan
Norwalk Recognized for Sustainability Initiatives
The City of Norwalk recently achieved a bronze certification from the group Sustainable CT in recognition of the community’s sustainability accomplishments. Sustainable CT is a statewide initiative that encourages and supports communities in becoming more resilient, inclusive and efficient. In the fall of 2020, seventeen municipalities qualified for certification, meeting the high standards in a broad range of sustainability accomplishments.
Norwalk’s Sustainability ActionsNorwalk demonstrated significant achievements in actions in sustainable impact areas. A few of those initiatives are outlined below.
Resources and Support to Local BusinessesThe city underwent a substantial marketing and tourism program to promote South Norwalk. The Business and Economic Development Department created a Small Business & Main Street Program that includes a storefront improvement program, public art initiative and compacting trash bins that all improve the area visually. In addition, the city conducted a number of business roundtables with local business owners to open and improve communication between City Hall and businesses in Norwalk. Focuses of the initial roundtables included available programs for small businesses and planned improvements for various neighborhoods.
Stewarding Land and Natural ResourcesNorwalk created a Watershed Management Plan for three different area watersheds including the Norwalk River, Saugatuck River and Five Mile River. These plans included the participation of a large group of watershed stakeholders. The Watershed Management Plans had a big impact on the adoption of the 2017 Norwalk Drainage Manual and recent City planning efforts. For example, the East Norwalk Transit-Oriented Development Plan places an emphasis on decreasing the amount of impervious surface in the City, which helps to prevent pollutants from running off into the Norwalk and Saugatuck River Watersheds. Actions listed in the Saugatuck River Watershed Plan include water quality monitoring, reducing impervious surfaces, restoring riparian buffers and land protection. In addition, Norwalk helped to fund a 2019 Fairfield County River Report by Harbor Watch, a research and education program located in Westport. The report assessed bacteria levels in 16 river watersheds, including Farm Creek, Silvermine River, Norwalk River and Saugatuck River. The 2019-2029 Citywide Plan and the business section of the zoning regulations contain green infrastructure incentives for development such as green roofs, rain gardens, solar panels, as well as stormwater management and low impact development goals and actions.
Sustainability and Resiliency PlanningNorwalk’s Citywide Plan heavily focuses on both smart growth and sustainable land development through preserving existing environmental resources. As part of this emphasis, the City will be drafting a climate action plan for Norwalk in the future. The Planning and Zoning Office has already adjusted its staff to include a Land Use Planner to work on environmental issues facing the city and the department has taken many steps towards sustainability through regulation changes. The City is also working on a regional level as a part of Western Connecticut Council of Governments COG's Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan.
Recycling Additional Materials and Composting OrganicsA Food Waste Prevention and Food Scraps Recovery Campaign was developed providing residential food scrap collection at the Norwalk Transfer Station and the Rowayton Community Center. Since the campaign began in July 2020, almost 20,000lbs in food scraps have been composted.
Growing Sustainable and Affordable Housing OptionsThe City of Norwalk has increased the percentage of affordable units in the city from 11.83% in 2014 to 12.75% in 2018, and most currently to 13.15% in 2019. Norwalk requires that any development over 20 units in most areas and 12 units in downtown areas include workforce housing units, and is looking at lowering that threshold to be any development over 10 units This will allow the City to further expand the amount of newly constructed affordable units in Norwalk which are in high demand. The 2019-2029 Citywide Plan continues this push for affordable housing with goals to provide more diverse housing options and encourage mixed-income developments in the City.
Support of the Arts and Creative CultureNorwalk has a very active Arts Commission that promotes arts and culture throughout Norwalk via activities, a website and an art inventory. In 2017, the Arts Commission appointed Norwalk's first Poet Laureate, Laurel S. Peterson, and the current Poet Laureate is Bill P. Hayden. A recent art project for Martin Luther K Boulevard has been recommended for full funding this fiscal year by the Mayor.
What is Sustainability Certification?To be eligible for sustainability certification, communities must have accomplished significant goals in nine sustainability impact areas, including community building, thriving local economies and vibrant arts and culture, clean transportation and diverse housing. In addition, certified municipalities must have addressed issues of belonging, equity, diversity and inclusion when implementing sustainability actions. Collectively, sixty-one municipalities, over 36% of the state’s communities, have earned a Sustainable CT certification. Certification lasts for three years, with submissions rigorously evaluated by independent experts and other Sustainable CT partners.
About Sustainable CTSustainable CT, managed under the leadership of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University, includes actions that help towns and cities build community connection, social equity, and long-term resilience. Sustainable CT is independently funded, with strong support from its three founding funders: the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, the Common Sense Fund, and the Smart Seed Fund. Additional support is provided by: the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, Connecticut Community Foundation, Fairfield County Community Foundation, Main Street Community Foundation, and other sponsors. For more information, visit sustainablect.org
I love the Norwalk coastline and the water. What is being done to protect and improve the water quality Long Island Sound?
There are a huge number of people and organizations working on policy and action to protect the Sound. Over 9 million people live in the 16,800 +/- square mile watershed that contributes to the Sound, so it is a colossal and complex effort. One big concern is water quality. If you live anywhere within Norwalk, when it rains...that rainwater eventually makes its way to Long Island Sound. That rainwater unfortunately carries pollutants, trash, and excess nutrients down to the Sound. As a coastal community, Norwalk has an outsized impact on the water quality of the Sound. Environmental planners approach water quality issues with watershed-based plans. These plans look at how rain and stormwater runoff travel across the land before getting to Long Island Sound. Policies and action items that reduce or retain pollution are spelled on in these watershed-based plans and these plans are referenced in Norwalk’s Plan of Conservation & Development. Except for those living closest to the coast – your runoff has a direct line to the Sound! – all other portions of Norwalk are part of either the Norwalk River watershed, the File Mile River watershed or the Saugatuck River watershed. Each of these plans can be found at the Norwalk Conservation Commission’s webpage. Some watershed areas have active groups working on getting protective action items done, others are looking for community leaders to advocate on behalf of the watershed.