Chicago Tribune: How can Park Ridge become a more sustainable city? Think planting flowers that encourage bees, making city events “zero-waste,” and adding electric vehicle charging stations. Those are some of the ideas that the city’s new sustainability task force hopes to turn into reality. The one-year task force, created by Mayor Marty Maloney in January, seeks to map out a sustainability plan for Park Ridge and work toward the objectives of the Greenest Region Compact, a Chicago-area sustainability initiative the city joined in September 2017. At least 100 municipalities in the Chicago area have signed on to the compact, according to the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus website.
“The task force kind of has a two-pronged mission,” co-chair Tim Milburn said. “One is to help provide information that’s useful to the public on sustainability. … We’re [also] trying to positively influence the city and its sustainability practices and policies, which is a bigger challenge.”
At the task force’s meeting on June 20, initiatives to improve the city’s sustainability were discussed with the group’s focus on issues related to climate, energy, waste and recycling, water, land and mobility. With water, the task force is considering whether to collectively back a permeable paver project for the library parking lot. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has approved a grant of up to $650,000 for the pavers, which are designed to absorb rain and snowmelt more effectively than traditional asphalt surfaces. Task force member Andrea Cline said the pavers are expected to improve stormwater detention throughout the city by reducing the amount of runoff from the library lot to lower-lying areas of the city. The pavers also were found by other cities that installed them to save money in winter because the bricks stay warmer longer than asphalt and require no salt, she said.
Aldermen have been divided on whether to spend about half the cost of the project, questioning if the potential benefits outweigh the cost and inconvenience of four and a half months of construction and net loss of parking spots. Alderman Marc Mazzuca addressed the issue of permeable pavers at the task force’s request.
“The pavers last three times as long as asphalt,” Mazzuca said. “So when we start looking at the cost of what we’re contemplating with MWRD, on a subsidized basis versus unsubsidized asphalt parking lot, it’s pretty close to a wash.”
But the stormwater detention benefits are a bonus.
“If you look at it on pavement to pavement, you’re about even, but you get detention, which you didn’t have,” he said.
Among the other initiatives the task force is considering are two different programs to encourage sustainable gardening. The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge asks individuals to register gardens planted with sources of nectar and pollen that sustain bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators. Similarly, the National Wildlife Foundation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge asks communities to sign on to a list of actions designed to boost the numbers of monarch butterflies, among other pollinators. The task force is also talking about ways to reduce waste at city programming, perhaps by contracting with vendors that promise “zero-waste” events and teaching people how to reduce the waste they generate. But the stormwater detention benefits are a bonus.
Communicating with the public is a big part of the task force’s plans for the next six months, Milburn said. On June 22, members of the task force had a booth at the city’s Community Health Fair, where they gave away hydroponic sprouts and talked to people about sustainability.
“I would say we were talking with somebody for the entire three hours,” he said. “We were very pleased with our first event.”
The task force hopes to appear at several other events, including the weekly farmers market and National Night Out Against Crime on Aug. 6. Milburn said members also may organize public talks on subjects like climate change and recycling.
While the task force was created to last for just one year, Milburn and co-chair Melissa Hulting say they hope its life will be extended or it will become a full commission.
“Our plan as a group is to make that happen,” Milburn said.