The Center for Sustainable Communities will be taking a close look at ways municipalities and their residents can reduce greenhouse gases with support from a $79,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The multi-municipal study builds, in part, on current research being conducted by Community and Regional Planning Assistant Professor Dr. Bradley Flamm, who is conducting a “Sustainability Audit” in Montgomery Township under a separate Center project.
“The focus of the Montgomery Township audit is to determine baseline data for municipal use of water, wastewater, and waste disposal services, and energy and transportation fuel consumption,” Dr. Flamm said. “It’s an opportunity for municipal officials to look at their communities as a whole — for residents and businesses to set some important goals and make commitments to reduce their environmental impact.”
Mari Radford has been an integral member of communities in parts of the world that many Americans may be familiar with through newspaper headlines and the evening news, but few have ever experienced firsthand.
Helping ensure the safety of civilians and soldiers in war torn Mogadishu, Somalia, whose conflicts inspired the reality-based Black Hawk Down. Evacuating refugees escaping tribal violence in Rwanda. Building communities from the ground up in Russian Georgia after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Radford, 46, has been a ground level witness and participant in events on the global stage. Graduating with a Master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning (CRP) from Temple University Ambler and walking in graduation ceremonies on May 14 — Radford is also the keynote speaker for the Ambler College Graduation Ceremony — she intends to use her global perspective to help plan the safety of our communities for today and tomorrow.
Nearly everyone each morning gets into their cars and heads to work, then reverses the process when coming home. Dropping the children off at school, trips to shopping malls, visits to grocery stores, even a quiet excursion to a public park are all accomplished behind the wheel of an automobile.
Few communities are built around the idea of public transportation. Few people bike to their destinations and fewer still have the luxury of being able to walk to get to where they need to go. This dependency on means other than ourselves for transportation has led to a deep dip in physical activity, which in turn impacts every aspect of our lives — from healthcare to housing to gas prices.
Community and Regional Planning Chair Dr. Deborah Howe has embarked on research that hopes to change this trend. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation approved a $200,000 grant for research designed to “transform land use regulations to create livable communities that support physical activity in everyday life.” The grant is part of the Foundation’s “Active Living Research” program.
Temple University Ambler is often referred to as the University’s green campus.
In 2007, Temple University Ambler added another facet to its longstanding approach to promoting sustainability and environmental stewardship for today and tomorrow — the Ambler Campus Sustainability Council (ACSC).
Comprised of faculty, staff, and students representing all stakeholder groups at Ambler campus, the ACSC acts as an advising body “in the development of sustainability initiatives on the Ambler campus with respect to the built environment, environmental management, programs, services, and university policies.”
According to Dr. Lynn Mandarano, ACSC Co-chair and Assistant Professor of Community and Regional Planning (CRP), the ACSC, works to identify national innovations “in the context of sustainable development and assesses Temple University’s participation in and readiness for sustainable development initiatives” — defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” The Council then makes recommendations to the Dean on priority initiatives and implementation strategies.
During the fall semester, students in the Community and Regional Planning program had a rare opportunity to expand their viewpoint of planning to a global perspective, supported by the insight and expertise of Visiting Scholar Dr. Heidi Sinning, Professor of Planning and Communication at Erfurt University of Applied Sciences in Germany.
“Some of my colleagues in the field of Social Work at Erfurt University of Applied Sciences have already been cooperating with Temple University for several years. About three years ago, the president of our University, Professor Dr. Heiner Kill, had a meeting with the Department of Community and Regional Planning and the Center for Sustainable Communities to expand the cooperative opportunities between both Universities,” said Dr. Sinning, who spent a month at the Ambler campus participating in a variety of classes. “That encouraged me to get to know Ambler and to apply as a Visiting Scholar. Last June, I visited Professor Deborah Howe (Chair of Department of Community and Regional Planning). We had a very good talk and agreed that I would come to Ambler in the fall.”
There is a piece of history nestled into the woods that few students likely even know exists on the Ambler campus. It’s easy to understand why — the wooded area that surrounds it nearly claimed it entirely over the decades.
During the Spring 2007 semester, however, a group of dedicated faculty members, students, staff, and volunteers, decided to begin taking back the historic Shoemaker House from the overgrowth that had obscured it from all but the most curious searchers.
Sponsored by the Ambler Campus Sustainability Council, students and faculty will brave the woods once more for Phase II of the Shoemaker House Woods Cleanup on Saturday, November 3, from 9 a.m. to Noon.
“On the south end of campus across from the soccer fields, the Shoemaker House dates back to the late 1600s — it’s possibly one of the oldest standing structures in Montgomery County. This historic treasure is a spring house, with crystal clear water flowing into a manmade pond,” said Dr. Deborah Howe, Chair of the Department of Community and Regional Planning, who has been one of the leading proponents in the cleanup effort. “The pond is filled with silt and decades of trash, but it does not take much imagination to see the wonderful opportunities ahead for this special place. We are currently removing invasive vegetation with longer term plans for stabilizing the ruins and restoring the environment with native species.”
To help protect the safety of residents within the floodplain, the Center for Sustainable Communities at Temple University embarked on a 4-year study of the Pennypack Creek Watershed to develop the most accurate floodplain maps possible.
“There are hundreds of people in the Pennypack Creek Watershed living in high risk flood zones. Because of inaccurate or outdated FIRMs (Flood Insurance Rate Maps), one can only guess the actual number,” said Dr. Jeffrey Featherstone, director of the Center for Sustainable Communities (CSC). “Many municipalities are using 1920 to 1960 precipitation data to determine the likely impacts of a 100-year flood when they are 15 to 20 percent lower than today’s reality — seven inches in 24 hours compared to today’s nine inches. In the more dramatic events that have taken place in recent years, it drives the numbers up dramatically.”
The Pennypack Creek Watershed study was a four-year project designed to completely map and provide updates to the floodplains of the Watershed, suggest stormwater best management practices to avoid flooding in the future, provide recommendations for open space preservation, and analyze water quality in an 11-municipality region. The research team consisted of Temple University faculty members, experts, and students from disciplines including landscape architecture, horticulture, geology, geography, geographic information systems, urban and suburban studies, land use policy and planning, environmental justice and civil engineering.
In Fall 2005, students in the Community and Regional Planning (CRP) master’s degree program, using the latest planning and mapping technology, envisioned a future for the Fort Washington Office Park where flooding and stormwater issues were a thing of the past.
That flood-free future has just taken one large leap forward.
The Center for Sustainable Communities at Temple University Ambler has been awarded a $420,000 grant from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to undertake a “Fort Washington Area Flooding and Transportation Improvement Study,” which will, in large part, be a direct continuation of the detailed research and planning undertaken by CRP students during the fall semester.