Environmental Master Plan – our environment, our future

By Craig Curtis

The City’s 2009/2011 Strategic Plan provides the following clear policy direction:

• To actively engage, educate and partner with the community to encourage new and creative environmental initiatives.

• To promote Red Deer’s environmental stewardship.

To implement this direction, an Environmental Advisory Committee was established and given the task of overseeing the preparation of an Environmental Master Plan for the City. The goal of the plan is improving environmental sustainability with the dual objectives of identifying actions that will help establish an ‘environmental vision’ with measurable targets to track progress.

The Environmental Advisory Committee embarked on a public engagement process in 2010, which included stakeholder meetings, community workshops and surveys as well as input through the City’s web site and social media.

The final Master Plan was adopted by City council in April 2011, and launched at an enviro-fair in June. The plan includes a set of core directions as well as a series of goals and priority actions through which progress can be measured.

The key focus areas of the plan are water, ecology, transportation, built environment, air, energy, and waste. Each focus area has a series of proposed targets and actions, which are to be measured and reported on an annual basis.

In 2012, the City published its first annual report to the community outlining the progress it has made. A further report will be issued this year. The key initiatives may be summarized as follows:

Water

The plan recommends a number of initiatives to encourage water conservation and improve storm-water management.

The City has recently revised its rate structure to encourage water conservation. It has also initiated a number of water conservation programs including a toilet rebate program and education on saving water through naturescaping. An extensive program for river and creek water quality monitoring has also begun this year.

Water consumption per person has decreased by 8%, and the City is on track to achieve its 2015 target.

Ecology

The plan recommends an increase in the amount of land set aside as green space as well as the establishment of enhanced setback policies adjacent to water bodies and escarpments.

The City adopted the new River Valley and Tributaries River Concept Plan in 2011, which provides direction for the Waskasoo Park system to expand to the east and west as the City grows. The plan has been adopted as policy by both the City and County councils.

Overall, the City has increased the land devoted to natural areas and green space by 5% and is on track to meet the 2015 target.

Transportation

The plan recommends the prioritization of active and public transportation and a focus on walkability in City neighbourhoods and their linkage with the major park system.

The City has recently completed the draft ‘Mobility Playbook’. The overall goal of the plan is to improve the modal split and place less emphasis on single vehicle travel as the City grows. The goal is to facilitate this change through choice by improving public transit and cycling opportunities. The plan is now open for public input and will come before council in May for final approval.

Built environment

The plan recommends that the City promote more compact development patterns and encourage infill development.

The preparation of new neighbourhood design guidelines is underway which will provide for a greater range of housing options. In addition, plans have been approved for major infill development in Riverlands and Railyards within the greater downtown area.

Air

The plan recommends that the City create a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The City has recently completed a corporate GHG inventory analysis, which is a first step in developing an emissions reduction plan. The study shows there are opportunities to reduce emissions at the City’s landfill and waste management facilities.

Energy

The plan recommends that the City take measures to reduce energy use and move towards using renewable energy sources.

The City has included numerous environmental features within a number of its buildings. It has also adopted new standards for energy savings using LED fixtures for traffic and streetlights.

Waste

The plan recommends a reduction in waste going to the landfill as well as increasing waste diversion opportunities.

Last year, the City commissioned an updated Waste Management Master Plan (WMMP) with the objective of becoming a provincial leader in waste management.

A draft plan has now been prepared which is under review in the community. The draft plan proposes a wide range of initiatives including backyard composting, expanded recycling and diversion as well as residential organics collection.

Conclusion

The implementation of the City’s Environmental Master Plan will always be a work in progress. Its success can be measured through a large number of different initiatives which will improve the environmental sustainability of the community. There are a number of important studies underway which, when adopted, will chart the future of the City.

The plan has already been recognized as a ‘best practice’ when the City was given the Innovators Award by the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA).

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