Building a Greener Greenville

By: Annie Peterson

As one of two Green Ribbon Advisory Committee Recommendations Fellows, I have the unique opportunity to research ways in which the City of Greenville’s Parks, Recreation, and Sustainability Department can incorporate sustainability into its projects. While this job may sound like a walk in the park, an incredible amount of time and effort goes into each one of the City’s projects.

I have spent the majority of the summer focusing on incorporating sustainable features into City Park, which recently broke ground in Southside neighborhood. The park will contain the historic Mayberry Park baseball field, as well as the Reedy River and the Swamp Rabbit Trail in that area. Additional park features will include playgrounds, basketball courts, community gardens, and an amphitheater for live performances.

Using the City Park Master Plan, I was tasked with determining the feasibility of pursuing Sustainable Sites Certification (SITES), essentially a LEED Certification for landscapes. SITES aims to act as a roadmap to sustainability for any property or landscape project. It offers a series of steps to achieve a list of prerequisites and credits. These prerequisites and credits cover everything from ensuring the sustainability of the materials used for construction to managing on-site soil and vegetation. The goal of the SITES initiative is to foster the creation of built landscapes that provide valuable services to both the environment and people.

My favorite part of researching SITES was speaking with project managers in other cities who have already achieved the certification. Their responses were interesting to say the least. While brutally honest about the financial and labor difficulties related to the certification, the men and women that I spoke with were incredibly knowledgeable in their fields and willing to share that wisdom. They offered me the kind of encouragement and advice that cannot be found in a manual. At times, they even made me laugh loud enough to turn heads in the office. Despite their complaints about the certification process, they all said the same thing. The benefits to the environment, economy, and community will make it all worth it.

Now, in my 8th week as a Green Ribbon Advisory Committee Recommendations Fellow, I have just begun my second major project, revamping the sustainable features and corresponding signage at the Greenville Zoo. While the Zoo already has numerous demonstrations of ways people can incorporate sustainability into their own backyards, the challenge has been how to encourage people to stop and learn about these features. With other attractions including endangered amur leopards, prehistoric aldabra tortoises, and sky-skimming giraffes, it is easy to see how backyard composters and rain barrels can get lost in the mix.

In the master plan for Greenville Zoo’s remodel, conservation and sustainability will play a more central role. One of the goals of the new zoo is to educate both children and adults about the role that all living things play in maintaining healthy ecosystems, and how to become stewards of the environment. By making connections between people’s actions and the effect they can have on the environment, more attention will be paid to the importance of sustainability and conservation for all living things.

Working as the Green Ribbon Advisory Recommendations Fellow has opened my eyes to the beauty of local government. The people at the City of Greenville, and other organizations I worked with this summer, are incredibly dedicated and hardworking. They put in long hours to ensure that our community becomes an ideal of sustainability, economic development, and citizen satisfaction. I am very proud to have worked with so many of these people this summer, and cannot wait to see where they take Greenville in the future.

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