The 25 happiest U.S. city park systems, ranked by scientists

Photo by Harry Gillen on Unsplash

Read the full story from the University of Vermont.

Feeling unhappy? Go find a city park—the bigger the better—and try taking a walk outdoors. 

That’s the upshot of a major new study that measures the happiness effects of city parks in the 25 largest U.S. cities, from New York City and Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. 

New scoring scale tracks the harmful effects of salt pollution in freshwater streams and rivers

Read the full story from the University of Maryland.

A new study sheds light on how salinization from winter road salt combined with other pollutants creates ‘chemical cocktails’ that can jeopardize the ecological balance of waterways, including those in the Washington, D.C. area. The researchers developed a new five-stage scale (Stage 0-IV) to track the progression of this damage, a tool that could inform public policy in the future. Parts of the Potomac, the Anacostia and Rock Creek waterways are in Stage III on the scale for at least part of the year.

Illinois EPA invests over $65.6 million in wastewater and drinking water projects in second quarter of FY22

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) has announced the issuance of more than $65.6 million in water infrastructure loans to local governments and sanitary districts for the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2022 (October – December). The Illinois EPA State Revolving Fund Program provides low-interest loans, which fund wastewater, stormwater, and drinking water projects. Three of the loan recipients qualified for a total of more than $3 million in principal forgiveness, providing additional benefits to those recipients. This is in addition to more than $5.3 million of funding recently announced for lead service line replacement projects issued by Illinois EPA in the second quarter.

“Communities throughout Illinois continue to face the challenges of aging wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. The Illinois EPA State Revolving Fund provides cost-saving loans to communities and water reclamation districts to meet the needs of their residents and customers.”

Director John J. Kim, Director, Illinois EPA

Illinois EPA’s State Revolving Fund includes two loan programs, the Water Pollution Control Loan Program (WPCLP) which funds both wastewater and stormwater projects, and the Public Water Supply Loan Program (PWSLP) for drinking water projects. The programs receive federal capitalization funding annually, which is combined with state matching funds, interest earnings, repayment money, and the sale of bonds, to form the source of financing for these infrastructure projects. The state matching funds for FY2020-2024 are being provided through Governor Pritzker’s bipartisan Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan thus increasing the funding capacity of both loan programs. Projects funded in FY22 receive an interest rate of just 1.11% for both wastewater and drinking water loans.

A complete list of FY22 second quarter loan recipients and more information about
Illinois EPA’s State Revolving Fund
are available on the Illinois EPA website.

How cities and counties are dumping abandoned properties

Read the full story at Route Fifty.

Vacant building issues include unpaid property taxes, fires and crime, but localities are making some progress reining them in.

Webinar: Sustainability in the City of Orlando

Feb 17, 2021, 1 pm CST
Register here.

This free, one hour webinar features Christopher Castro, director of sustainability & resilience for the City of Orlando. Chris will describe his department’s seven focus areas and corresponding goals: transitioning the electric grid to 100 percent clean energy; creating a market for high-performance, green building development in commercial and residential sectors; building a local food economy that embraces urban agriculture; transforming to a zero-waste future; enhancing livability with natural systems and ecology; developing programs around water quality; and reducing the number of single-occupancy vehicles through the implementation of multimodal transportation solutions.

Our Speaker

Chris is a renowned public official, sustainability professional, clean energy enthusiast, and eco-entrepreneur with a passion for advancing smart, resilient, and sustainable cities in balance with nature. In his current position since 2014, he has served as a senior advisor to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and “Future-Ready” steering committee member at the City of Orlando — developing policies, programs, and partnerships that have turned Orlando into one of the leading cities in America accelerating sustainability, resiliency and climate action. Chris is also known for his entrepreneurial efforts prior to coming to the City, including co-founding a global sustainability nonprofit, IDEAS For Us, as well as a clean energy consulting firm, Citizen Energy, and a renowned urban farming social enterprise, Fleet Farming. In 2020, Chris also joined partners to launch Climate First Bank, the first B-Corp community bank in Florida working to advance ESG and local sustainable investing. Outside of work, Chris serves on many nonprofit and academic boards, including the UCF Energy Research Center, US Green Building Council of Florida, Project Greenschools, and Goodwill Industries of Central Florida. In December 2018, Chris was featured in a National Geographic documentary on climate change called “Paris to Pittsburgh.”

A natural solution for the Northbrook Park District

Read the full story in Parks & Recreation Magazine.

It is not often that park and recreation agencies bring two multimillion-dollar capital projects to fruition in the same decade, let alone the same year.

The Northbrook Park District, located in Northbrook, Illinois, experienced this perfect storm in 2021 with the construction of Techny Prairie Activity Center, as well as course renovations and a new clubhouse at Heritage Oaks Golf Club.

Through a Comprehensive Master Plan process conducted in 2016, several priorities for investment were identified based on community input, inventory and analysis comparisons to state and national standards, demographics and financial capabilities. This process launched an initiative called New Places to Play.

Both projects were designed using sustainable practices, upholding the park district’s overall mission to enhance the community by providing outstanding services, parks and facilities through environmental, social and financial stewardship.

2021 City Clean Energy Scorecard

The 2021 City Clean Energy Scorecard analyzes the efforts of 100 major U.S. cities to make buildings and transportation more energy efficient and scale up the use of renewable energy—and do so equitably. It provides a comprehensive national measuring stick for climate progress in cities, from the leaders to those with ample room for progress.

The cities that battle winter with beets

Read the full story from Bloomberg CityLab.

When Washington, D.C., announced it was busy preparing for a wintry mix by making a cocktail of road-coating beet extract last week, some people were understandably confused. Beets and streets do not compute. Salt and streets, on the other hand, has a nice ring to it — if only because that particular food-infrastructure pairing had a head start in the popular imagination as an effective way to stop cars from skidding during icy nights. 

But D.C., like many cities, has long relied on a potion of beet-enhanced brine to coat its roads. The extract of sugar beets, when combined with traditional ice-melting chlorides, can be more effective at lowering the freezing point of water than salt alone (here’s how the chemistry works). It’s also more biodegradable and less corrosive to vehicles. Discovered by a Hungarian scientist in the 1990s, the just-add-beets method has spread across North America, joining a host of other agricultural byproducts — including pickle juice, cheese brine and leftover beer — sprayed on streets in a quest to cut the dangerous salt habit that highway departments have picked up. 

When a city’s data-driven decisions go bad

Read the full story at Next City.

Every city government says they want to be data-driven. But not that many cities do it right.

Phoenixville’s wastewater treatment plant to get a first-of-its-kind upgrade

Read the full story from WHYY.

Phoenixville has announced plans to build what it claims will be the first hydrothermal carbonization plant at a municipally-owned wastewater treatment center not only in Chester County, but in all of North America.