The consultant preparing the Takoma Park Public Spaces Management Plan presented the plan’s draft recommendations at a community meeting, August 23, 2022. These recommendations included many ideas from the input which 20 FONTT members submitted following the previous community meeting.
Below is a comparison of FONTT members’ suggestions versus what the consultant put in the draft recommendations for the plan
- Provide sufficient budget for vegetation maintenance in public spaces
- Remove invasive plants
- Create an improved maintenance strategy and identify a revenue source for city-owned forest and open space with a focus on removing invasive species
- Support and supplement the City maintenance efforts to improve erosion control and control of non-native invasive species.
- Increase native plants through more green stormwater infrastructure in public spaces. On the surface, green stormwater infrastructure harnesses the power of native plants to control stormwater through infiltration.
- Implement more green stormwater infrastructure in public spaces, reduce impervious surfaces where possible
- Increase native plants in public spaces: Plant more native trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, grasses, and sedges.
- Make dedicated native plant gardens in parks and in small public spaces along streets. Mark with interpretative signage explaining the importance of native trees and plants to protecting habitat.
- Incentivize homeowners to plant native gardens in right-of-way strips
- Increase native plants in public spaces and create incentives for property owners to plan native plants in right-of-way strips
At least 10 FONTT members submitted individual comments to the city about the draft recommendations. The gist of some of these comments appear below.
Here is how I responded to the following two questions on the city form:
DO YOUR HAVE ANY CONCERNS OR IDEAS ABOUT HOW TO IMNPROVE THE DRAFT RECOMMENDATIONS?
I like that the draft recommendations include planting more native trees and other native plants, and removing invasive plants. The recommendations could be more specific in two places.
1. Several public areas should have dedicated native gardens with signage that explains the importance of native trees and plants for climate, biodiversity, and people’s health and well-being.
2. Clarify that green stormwater infrastructure on the surface would have native trees and plants, so that the space is actually multifunctional — aids filtration AND aesthetic AND educational AND aids biodiversity.
WHAT ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS DO YOU THINK COULD HELP IMPROVE THE PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL DYNAMICS IN THE CITY?
1. The public spaces plan should begin with a statement of values and a commitment to goals of using public spaces to address climate change, protect biodiversity, and improve people’s health and well-being through access for all to green spaces. It would be great if the city joined the Biophilic Cities network (https://www.biophiliccities.org/) as manifestation of this commitment.
2. The plan should indicate that future plans will integrate and coordinate the various separate plans of the city. It really does not make sense that while one department is planning for public spaces, another department is drafting an urban forest master plan. Arlington County is doing this on a grand scale — see page 8 in this document: (file:///C:/Users/lizzk/Documents/EndNote/Urban%20Forestry%20Library.Data/PDF/1559794344/arlington-county-forestry-and-natural-resource.pdf). Even if that is beyond the capacity of Takoma Park, we could do much better than producing entirely separate plans for overlapping concerns
I used the comment form to register my agreement with the points above that Lizz made, addressed the SWOT question with points that emphasized native trees, and added this response to the question about improvements to existing policies: “The draft does a good job of identifying the many interests and values at stake when planning for and managing public space. Because climate change and biodiversity loss are such extreme problems, with damage that is so hard if not impossible to reverse, and because important change can begin at the local level, I believe the sound recommendations in the Sustainability section of the draft should be among the highest priorities when the final plan is put forward.
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Honestly, I found the form’s opening broad question about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to be off putting and not very specific. Therefore, I submitted the following statement that went from the broad (the critical role of greenspace in public spaces) to the more specific (out with invasives and in with natives).
“Public spaces are what make a community livable, help create/sustain its identity, and give residents a sense of belonging and cohesion. Studies show that greenspaces are critical to health and wellness—indeed even increasing property values. And within those greenspaces, Takoma Park can demonstrate residents’ commonly shared commitment to sustainability by embracing and encouraging the use of native plants, which are demonstrably better for our ecosystem. To that end, as Takoma Park considers its plan for public spaces, it should emphasize the incorporation of greenspaces that remove invasive plants and encourage the use of native species. Beyond city-owned and -managed spaces, the city should help educate residents about the importance of native plants and encourage/incentivize them to plant native species on their properties.”
My responses on the two following questions were easier:
“The city should strengthen its commitment to the use of native plants and trees, which are better for the ecosystem.”
“Consider educating residents about the importance of planting native species and offering incentives for doing so—particularly in median strips, which are de facto public spaces because they line our city’s sidewalks. This could include periodic offerings of native plants and trees and/or discounts on the purchase of them.”
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I just submitted comments along the lines of what Lizz suggested. In addition, I added the following regarding the draft recommendations: “Also, as part of the effort to increase native vegetation, I’d recommend that the city devote some more resources to protecting existing native tree saplings in wooded areas from deer and people; this could entail placing deer guards around some of the saplings.”
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