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.
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:
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
- 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
Recommendations for Norwalk's Industrial Waterfront
A significant portion of the waterfront in Norwalk, CT has been zoned and used for industrial use. The city undertook a planning exercise to determine the appropriate land uses for these historically industrial waterfronts. The draft plan, Industrial Waterfront Land Use Plan, has been developed for the city to use as a policy roadmap, allowing these areas to grow and change in a way that balances and aligns with both public and private needs.
Changes to the zoning laws around the Norwalk waterfront will be aimed at promoting economic development and preserving the water dependent uses in the area, while also increasing public access, improving water quality through improved drainage techniques and providing native vegetative buffers, while also improving the built environment.
Read more to find out some of these suggestions for how to revise this waterfront.
Why the Norwalk, CT Waterfront Rezoning Matters
Before we begin, let’s take a quick look at why the Norwalk waterfront needed to be reevaluated.
It’s quite an understatement to say that industrial waterfront land has vastly changed in the last century. In Norwalk, the use of industrial waterfront has been transitioning from strictly industrial uses to less intense uses, such as marinas and small boat facilities, while legacy uses such as oyster harvesting and bulkhead repairs continue to be integral parts of the community. In addition, modern innovations, like the innovative boat building and storage or marine highway programs like harbor harvest hold promise for future economic success for our harbor.
However, updating industrial waterfronts comes with its challenges. The historical use of Norwalk's urban waterfront plays such an enormous part in the city's identity. It's also an essential piece of the local economy.
The Norwalk waterfront has an array of uses.Some areas are zoned exclusively for heavy industrial uses, while others are reserved for commercial or public use and some have a mix of uses which can include residential
This is why the Norwalk Industrial Waterfront Land Use planning process looked at ways to benefit both public and private institutions alike, including the input of many stakeholders to thoughtfully address these uses. Read further to learn about the major themes that occurred throughout the planning process.
1. Increased Public Access
One common desire mentioned in the numerous meetings with the public is for Norwalk residents and tourists to have more access to the waterfront. An asphalt factory near the head of the Norwalk river is a good example. Not only is The facility under-utilized, but locating an asphalt plant in proximity to your downtown is not a desired land-use scenario. In addition, the public feels the land could better serve the community by broadening its usage.
This automatically indicates the need for changing the zoning laws, which is already underway. This site would need to be rezoned from its current industrial status. It's just one example of how shifting the zoning laws may impact the broader waterfront ecology.
2. Reduced Heavy Industry
Rezoning to determine the appropriate types of heavy industrial usage and where they should be located have been common themes across every public meeting. The current zoning laws prioritize heavy industry. The updated zoning regulations would increase light industrial and artisanal industries.
These would be able to exist alongside residential zones to buffer more heavy industrial uses. This would allow for more mixed-use areas near the waterfront.
3. Mixed Use
Whatever form the final rezoning takes, mixed-use could play an important part. We see this in the proposal of placing light industry next to residential, for instance.
This would open the way for mixed-use marine commercial zoning, allowing more marine commercial businesses to remain on the waterfront while opening up the area around them for mixed uses. Examples of marine commercial businesses could include yacht clubs or marinas while mixed uses could be a marine retail store with residential above.
4. Reimagining Water Street
How Water Street looks, feels and functions has been debated many times over the years. The Plan’s vision for the area strives to strike a balance between the desire for public access and views of the water, with the need to support Norwalk’s thriving marine industries, while also improving the built environment of the street to compliment the desired development occurring elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Increasing the amount of greenery, particularly waterfront buffers, is another common concern, which would also help to address environmental issues. This is another major goal for many of the proposed changes to the industrial waterfront.
These suggestions will all help to keep the area vital, making it more appealing to residents and visitors.
5. Retain Protect, and Reinvest in Water-Dependent Businesses
There was consensus among stakeholders of the need to support and maybe even expand businesses that are water dependent in Norwalk, especially in the Water Street Marina area in South Norwalk. The concern is that they continue to contribute to Norwalk and the regional economy.
Ways to do this include: increasing the protected marine commercial zone and investing in infrastructure for these industries– such as bulkheads, dock repairs, and dredging of the Norwalk River.
While this is an acknowledged goal of the plan, it must be done in a way that considers the other identified needs and goals of the study, so the waterfront is resilient, active and accessible to all.
6. Preserve the Environment and Prepare for Resiliency
For waterfront areas, consideration of environmental factors is especially important. Recommendations for all the waterfront parcels is to increase flood resilience, improve water quality, and promote ecological restoration.
Investing in things like impermeable to permeable pavement or vegetation/soft shoreline would help reduce flooding in the more urban areas of the waterfront. These would limit property damage and ensure businesses are able to resume operations soon after a major storm. Expansion of tidal marshes, living shoreline, vegetative buffers, or other passive flood protection would help to mitigate flooding, improve water quality, and restore habitat in less inhabited areas.
The final recommendations in the plan, like those above, will inform the city as they work to update policy and develop the waterfront along Norwalk Harbor and the Norwalk River, including the Harbor Management Plan as well as land use regulations.
Stay up-to-date on the Norwalk, CT waterfront and other planning efforts of the City and give us your input.
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 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
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 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.
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 Study
The 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 Work
To 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 Involved
The 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.
Examining the Use of Norwalk's Industrial Waterfront
A beautiful city located on the Long Island Sound, Norwalk, CT has several photo worthy, waterfront destinations like the Maritime Aquarium or Calf Pasture Beach. These are great area attractions and unique spaces, but there are other waterfront areas, notably along the Norwalk River, that have historically been used for industry and other commercial purposes.
Norwalk is undergoing an assessment of the use of Norwalk’s industrial waterfront to determine what may be in store for the area. Read on to learn more.
Economic Development and Norwalk's Waterfront
City leaders across the nation view commercial waterfront districts as an opportunity for sustainable development. Norwalk is one city undergoing such an evaluation.
The latest waterfront assessment is all about improving its waterfront properties to meet the needs of today. For example, Norwalk officials are reconsidering the use of the city’s industrial zones. At the same time, they’re examining how residents can best coexist with local industry.
City planners hope to answer these same questions along waterfront property with the latest industrial waterfront land use study. The study is the result of a recommendation from the initial Industrial Zones study which suggests that waterfront industrial uses should be assessed separately from inland industrial uses as a result of their unique qualities.
There’s an abundance of opportunities for Norwalk’s industrial property on the waterfront. The goal of the study is to ensure that the city meets the needs of residents and businesses. That’s why feedback from the public is being encouraged to influence how they move forward. The Industrial Waterfront Land Use Plan will be influenced by residents, business owners, and other local constituents.
Examining Industrial Waterfront Uses
Part of the process of rethinking the Norwalk waterfront is to examine how the land zoned for industry is currently used. Already, there are several well-established businesses along the Norwalk River. They range from commercial marine facilities, to recreation and tourist areas, to industrial and commercial business districts. Many of these uses add to the maritime character of Norwalk and play a role in the regional and State economy.
Environmental Considerations for Norwalk's Waterfront
In addition to creating more jobs and offering recreational and other options, officials also want to protect the area’s natural resources. The waterfront study will evaluate several environmental concerns, including:
The study will identify areas of high risk or high environmental sensitivity such as low lying areas that may be prone to flooding or areas receiving polluted run-off from their land side counterparts. It will also look at areas in the river that may be in need of dredging and determine any environmental considerations.
The final plan will incorporate best practices for zoning standards to minimize stormwater runoff and support water quality by adding things like permeable pavement and landscape buffers.
- Flood hazards
- Dredging for navigation channels
- Water quality
Planning for Norwalk's Future Waterfront
The ultimate goal of Norwalk’s Industrial Waterfront Land Use Study will be to determine how to best make use of waterfront property in the future. It also will consider opportunities for public access and recreation. Overall, the city’s new plans for the Norwalk River will prioritize water-dependent uses. Water dependent uses are valued by local citizens because of the role they play in creating a sense of place in Norwalk. They are also prioritized by the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
This plan will help city officials assess the aspirations, ideas, and needs of residents and businesses with regard to the local waterfront. The outcome of this study will be a new framework for regulations and rezoning in the area. More importantly, it will highlight projects that will result in a healthy, vibrant, and dynamic waterfront for Norwalk.
Help Shape the Future of Norwalk's Waterfront
The City of Norwalk would love to hear your ideas and feedback for the future plans for Norwalk’s industrial waterfront. Please feel free to visit our Norwalk Tomorrow feedback map and make your voice heard.
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 Walks
Whether 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 Downtown
To 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
All 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.
People 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.
The 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.
As 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 Rise
Coastal 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.
Pollution 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 Norwalk
The 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:
The 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 Protection
In 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.
The 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 CT
Even 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.
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 Actions
Norwalk demonstrated significant achievements in actions in sustainable impact areas. A few of those initiatives are outlined below.
Resources and Support to Local Businesses
The 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 Resources
Norwalk 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 Planning
Norwalk’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 Organics
A 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 Options
The 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 Culture
Norwalk 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 CT
Sustainable 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