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Grant could fund city’s green infrastructure

Springfield program would turn vacant lots into pocket parks for stormwater.

The city will apply for an approximately $361,000 grant to fund green infrastructure projects.

City commissioners approved an emergency ordinance at its Dec. 23 meeting allowing city staff members to apply for the grant as part of the 2013 Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive program from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The grant would require an approximately $120,000 match.

The city would like to use the money to create pocket parks out of vacant lots, which would be designed to increase their ability to hold and retain stormwater, according to Sky Schelle, the city’s stormwater coordinator. The parks would be maintained by the city, Schelle said, and could raise property values.

“We couldn’t address every vacant lot in Springfield, but it’s a start,” Schelle said.

Over the last six months, the city has been determining where vacant lots are located near the combined sewers and which ones could have the greatest impact on stormwater, if converted to pocket parks.

“It’s got to be an area where we feel our investment isn’t going to go to waste,” Schelle said. “We’re still in the process of trying to prioritize those areas.”

The money must be spent on green infrastructure that has the potential to increase community resiliency, reduce a community’s impact from climate change and flooding.

“To a certain extent, those are all things we’re dealing with here in Springfield,” Schelle said.

Schelle said this year the city will also examine whether green infrastructure is something that can be part of the Combined Sewer Overflow long-term control plan.

“This kind of folds into that, depending on what our consultants say and whether or not we get this grant,” Schelle said. “We may be able to put some of that money towards some projects our consultant recommends.”

Schelle said the grant will be highly competitive. He’d be surprised if they were awarded the funding.

“It’s worth applying for because it’s a large chunk of money,” Schelle said.

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