Norwalk’s Flood Resilience Project: Green Infrastructure for Salt Marsh Rehabilitation in South Norwalk

The City of Norwalk, in partnership with The Norwalk Land Trust, is developing preliminary designs aimed at revitalizing the South Norwalk salt marsh and implementing innovative green infrastructure to enhance flood resilience. This ambitious project, situated within the urban core of South Norwalk and encompassing five acres in and adjacent to the Village Creek Estuary, is designed to not only rehabilitate a degraded salt marsh but also to significantly improve stormwater management, thereby reducing the risk of flood damage to the surrounding neighborhoods.

Revitalizing the Salt Marsh for Future Generations

Historically, the Village Creek estuary has suffered from extensive development and neglect, resulting in the loss of two-thirds of its original salt marsh area. A key focus of the rehabilitation effort will be on a three-acre section in the northwesternmost portion of the estuary, which has been isolated and degraded due to an old bermed roadway. This area has seen a significant loss of native high marsh plant species and an invasion of Phragmites australis, a common reed that undermines the ecological integrity of salt marshes. The project aims to remove the historic fill and reintroduce native vegetation, thereby restoring the natural tidal flush and enhancing the marsh's resilience to flooding.

Green Infrastructure: A Sustainable Approach to Stormwater Management

In response to the challenges posed by episodic roadway flooding and the need for improved stormwater quality, Norwalk plans to employ green infrastructure within its road rights-of-way and public parcels. This includes the installation of bioswales, rain gardens, tree boxes, and canopy trees along city streets, as well as the incorporation of pervious pavement and detention basins in new developments like the neighborhood school at 1 Meadow Street Extension. These measures are designed to reduce runoff, filter pollutants, and increase the absorption of stormwater, thereby mitigating flood risks and enhancing the quality of water discharged into the salt marsh.

Community Engagement and Resilience Building

Understanding the vital role of community support and engagement, the city is committed to working closely with local residents, businesses, and stakeholders throughout the project. The Maritime Aquarium will provide support through their strong knowledge of the salt marsh habitat and professional staff of scientists, and local government departments will collaborate.  South Norwalk, with its diverse and vibrant community, stands to benefit significantly from these efforts. By addressing flood vulnerability and enhancing environmental quality, the project aims to create a safer, more resilient, and more livable neighborhood for all.

A Vision for the Future

This initiative is not just about addressing current challenges but is also a forward-looking effort to prepare Norwalk for the impacts of climate change, including sea-level rise and more frequent and intense storm events. By restoring the salt marsh and implementing green infrastructure, Norwalk is taking a significant step towards a sustainable future, ensuring that the city remains a resilient and thriving community for generations to come.

Green Roofs and Urban Heat Island Prevention

Have you ever walked around your city during a hot summer day and wondered why it feels warmer than the surrounding countryside? The answer is the urban heat island effect, which is a phenomenon that occurs when cities are significantly warmer than their surrounding rural areas. Heat islands can cause serious health and environmental problems. Fortunately, there are ways communities can reduce the heat island effect, one is through the installation of green roofs. In this blog post, we will discuss how green roofs can help prevent and mitigate the urban heat island effect in Norwalk, CT.

What is the urban heat island effect?

The urban heat island effect is caused by the large amount of asphalt, concrete, and buildings that absorb and radiate heat in urban areas. As a result, cities can be up to 10°F warmer than the surrounding rural areas. The heat islands can increase energy consumption, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, and they can also have a significant impact on human health, particularly for vulnerable populations like the elderly and children.

How can green roofs help prevent the urban heat island effect?

Green roofs are roofs that are covered with vegetation, soil, and other materials that protect the building from the elements and help regulate temperature. Green roofs can lower the temperature of the building and the surrounding area by absorbing and promoting the evapotranspiration of water, and reducing the amount of heat absorbed by the building. In addition, green roofs can absorb air pollutants, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide a habitat for a variety of plant and animal species. Read about Norwalk, CT’s Street Canopy Project

How are green roofs installed or added to structures?

Installing green roofs is easier than you might think. Local building codes and zoning regulations may require a certain percentage of green roofs for new construction, retrofitting, and renovation projects. Moreover, there are several companies in the area that specialize in green roofing and can help you install and maintain a green roof. Green roofs require proper planning, irrigation, and maintenance, but they are an excellent investment for homeowners, businesses, and communities that want to reduce energy costs, improve air quality, and promote sustainability.

What are the benefits of green roofs, beyond reducing the urban heat island effect?

Green roofs have numerous benefits that go beyond mitigating the urban heat island effect. For instance, they can improve stormwater management by reducing runoff and preventing flooding. They can also enhance the aesthetic value of buildings and create new green spaces for people to enjoy. Green roofs can even improve the value of the property by increasing its energy efficiency and ecological footprint. Green roofs are one tool communities can implement to reduct the urban heat island effect. They can help reduce energy consumption, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, while also providing numerous other benefits.

Green Roofs in Norwalk, CT

Norwalk is implementing new zoning regulations in early 2024 which will require a Green, Blue, or Solar-equipped rooftop in some cases. Other zones will offer development bonuses for projects that include Blue, Green, or Solar-equipped roofs as well as other sustainability measures. If you are a homeowner, a business owner, or a community leader in Norwalk, CT, consider installing a green roof on your property and contributing to a more sustainable and healthy environment. Let's work together to promote green infrastructure and make our city a better place to live, work, and play.

Urban Farming: Growing a Greener Future for Norwalk, CT

Urban farming is one solution to the increasing demand for food production in cities. As the world population continues to grow, we face a challenge to create sustainable food systems that can accommodate the demand for healthy food options. In this blog, we explore the benefits of urban farming and share ways Norwalk residents can incorporate gardens in their apartments and neighborhoods.

Sustainable Food Production

One type of urban farming seen in cities is called Vertical Farming, a modern method of growing crops in vertically stacked layers using artificial lighting, controlled temperature, and irrigation systems. This technique can produce up to 90% more food per square foot than traditional farming and requires less water and pesticides. Other types of urban farming can include community gardens, farmers markets, rooftop gardens, or as small as a garden in your own apartment.  By incorporating urban farming in cities, we can improve food access while lowering our carbon footprint. Urban farming allows for a decrease in transportation costs and reduces the need for preservatives and chemicals often used in mass production crops.

Support Your Neighbors through Urban Agriculture

Urban farming has the potential to create a resilient local food economy. By supporting local farms, we're investing in our community's health and vitality. Urban farming provides income opportunities for residents and reduces the reliance on food imports, creating local jobs in the community. As consumers, we can support local farms by shopping at farmers' markets and participating in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Through these programs, families can receive a weekly supply of fresh vegetables and fruits straight from their neighborhood.

Urban Garden Hacks: How to Start a Garden in Your Apartment

Apartment living doesn't mean we can't join the urban farming movement. There are plenty of ways to incorporate gardens in our apartments, balconies, and windowsills. Container gardens, indoor vertical gardens, and hydroponic setups can bring a variety of vegetables and herbs to your kitchen table. Starting an apartment garden can seem daunting, but it's easier than you think. With the right tools and some patience, anyone can grow their own food. Local nurseries or hardware stores can provide advice and starter kits to make the journey a little smoother. Check out these apartment garden ideas on Pinterest. mason jar hydroponic gardens

Connecting Communities through Urban Farms

Urban farming can bring people together, creating a sense of community around food. Participating in urban farms and community gardens can connect people from diverse backgrounds around a shared interest in sustainable food production. It can also create opportunities for educational programming and cultural exchange around food traditions. Community gardens are often managed through a partnership between local government, nonprofits, and residents. By participating in the management of these gardens, residents have a voice in the food system and can contribute to a more sustainable future for their community. If you’re interested in getting involved with a local garden community, look no further than Fodor Farm. A historical landmark dating back to 1809, Fodor Farm is now the home of sustainable gardens, food and garden demonstrations, and a newly updated event venue. On the grounds you’ll find 300 working plots and gardens that Norwalk, CT residents can rent for the season. Click here to learn more about Fodor Farm. Urban farming is a vital solution for creating sustainable food systems in cities. Norwalk residents can benefit from the economic and environmental advantages of urban farming by supporting local farmers, starting their own gardens, and participating in community gardening programs. By investing in urban farming, we can reduce our carbon footprint, support our local economy, and foster a sense of community around food.

Sustainability and Resilience Plan for Norwalk, CT

The Redevelopment Agency for the City of Norwalk (City) is working with a consultant to develop a Sustainability and Resilience Plan that will serve as a roadmap for the City to implement a clearly defined and equitable set of sustainability goals as outlined within the City's Plan of Conservation and Development.

The Community Resilience Building Workshop Summary of Findings

One of the major first steps towards creating this Sustainability and Resilience Plan was the Community Resilience Building (CRB) Workshop held in May 2022. In early 2022, the Redevelopment Agency began a series of discussions with The Nature Conservancy about conducting a Climate Resilience Building (CRB) workshop to engage with community members and define strengths and vulnerabilities within the City of Norwalk. This workshop was facilitated by The Nature Conservancy, Western Connecticut Council of Governments, and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency in partnership with Sustainable CT.  The leading objectives of this workshop included:
  •     Defining top local, natural, and climate-related hazards of concern
  •     Identifying existing and future strengths and vulnerabilities
  •     Prioritizing actions for the City
  •     Identifying opportunities to collaboratively advance actions to increase resilience alongside residents and organizations from across the City, and beyond
The City of Norwalk benefited from a unique “anywhere at any scale”, community-driven process called Community Resilience Building (CRB) (www.CommunityResilienceBuilding.org). The CRB’s tools, other relevant planning documents, and local maps were integrated into the workshop process to provide both decision-support and visualization around shared issues and existing priorities across Norwalk...Using the CRB process, rich with information, experience, and dialogue, the participants produced the findings presented in this summary report including an overview of the top hazards, current concerns and challenges, existing strengths, and proposed actions to improve resilience to hazards and climate change, today and in the future. The publication draft of the CRB Workshop Summary of Findings was published in September 2022 and is available for review by clicking the link below. The Community Resilience Building Workshop Summary of Findings

2nd Public Workshop for the Resilient South Norwalk Project

2nd Public Workshop for the Resilient South Norwalk Project

June 29th, 6:30pm - 8:00pm
 
 
This is a virtual public workshop being hosted for the Resilient South Norwalk Project. The project team has developed some potential solutions to mitigate flooding and heat impacts in South Norwalk. To learn more about the project, please visit: https://tomorrow.norwalkct.org/plan/resilient-south-norwalk-project/
 

Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure Project: A Step Towards Sustainable Development

Calf Pasture Beach, Norwalk Connecticut 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.

About the Project

The Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure project is a collaborative effort between the Norwalk Department of Public Works and the Norwalk Recreation and Parks. The project aims to transform the existing parking lot at Calf Pasture Beach into a sustainable and functional green infrastructure system that will reduce the amount of polluted stormwater runoff entering Long Island Sound. The project involves the installation of a permeable pavement system(3125 sf), and eight bioretention areas and the planting of native vegetation(~21 trees, 59 shrubs, and hundreds of perennials/grasses). The permeable pavement system will allow stormwater to infiltrate into the ground, reducing the amount of runoff that enters the nearby waterways. The bioretention areas will provide additional treatment of stormwater through a natural process of filtration and absorption. The native vegetation will help absorb stormwater, provide a habitat for wildlife, and beautify the area. [gallery columns="4" ids="2189,2190,2191,2188"]

Benefits of the Calf Pasture Beach Project

The Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure project has numerous benefits. Firstly, it will improve water quality in the Long Island Sound by reducing the amount of polluted stormwater runoff entering the waterways. This, in turn, will help to protect aquatic life and create a healthier environment for recreational activities. Secondly, the project will increase the amount of green space in the area, providing a more aesthetically pleasing and functional space for visitors. The addition of native vegetation will also provide a habitat for wildlife, contributing to the overall health of the ecosystem. Lastly, the project demonstrates how sustainable development can be achieved through the integration of green infrastructure. By transforming an existing parking lot into a sustainable and functional green infrastructure system, the project is an example of how we can mitigate the negative impacts of urban development while still meeting the needs of the community.

Potential for Similar Project

The Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure project has the potential to inspire similar projects in other areas. As urban areas continue to expand, it is becoming increasingly important to integrate green infrastructure into urban development. The benefits of green infrastructure are numerous, including reducing stormwater runoff, improving water quality, creating habitat for wildlife, and improving the overall aesthetics of the area. By showcasing the benefits of green infrastructure, the Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure project can inspire other communities to follow suit. The project is a reminder that sustainable development is possible and that it is up to us to take action to ensure a healthy and prosperous future for ourselves and future generations.

Conclusion

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. The project demonstrates how we can mitigate the negative impacts of urban development while still meeting the needs of the community. The project has numerous benefits, including improving water quality, providing habitat for wildlife, and improving the overall aesthetics of the area. In addition to the above benefits, the Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure project will also include the addition of a safe and protected pedestrian boulevard and a redesign of the entrance and exits to improve access and exit flow. The new pedestrian boulevard will provide visitors with a safe and enjoyable space to walk, run, or bike, away from vehicle traffic. This will recreate a beach walk from sand to surf over thermoplastic imagery designed for Norwalk. The redesign of the entrance and exits will improve traffic flow, reduce congestion, and enhance safety for all users. The integration of these additional features highlights the importance of considering all aspects of sustainable development, including the safety and accessibility of the space. By creating a more accessible and safer environment, the project will encourage more people to visit and utilize the area, contributing to a more vibrant and active community. The success of the project has the potential to inspire similar projects in other areas, contributing to a more sustainable city and livable future for all.  

What is Blue Urbanism and Why Does It Matter?

Norwalk Connecticut water front picture 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 Impact

In 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 Urbanism

Blue 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 Stewardship

Norwalk 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 World

Blue 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 Conclusion

Blue 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

Resilient South Norwalk Final Report - November 2023


June 29th, 2023 Public Workshop


January 12, 2023 Public Workshop

  Climate 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 Norwalk

The 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 Activities

The 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 The 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 Participation

The 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

Street tree canopy in Norwalk, CT 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 Planting

Keeping 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 Ordinance

In 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 Committee

In 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 Projects

Concerns 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

South Norwalk Reslience ProjectOver 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 Change

The 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.