Green Infrastructure

The West Michigan
Green Infrastructure Strategy A Product of the West Michigan Strategic Alliance


Background:
The Green Infrastructure Task Force was created by the West Michigan Strategic Alliance with a bold and aggressive goal - to construct a 25 year vision for permanent protection of open space in our region. After more than 10 months of deliberations, the Task Force published the summary report titled "The West Michigan Green Infrastructure Strategy" in November 2003.
This report is a beginning, not an end. We believe we have successfully crafted a strategic framework for thinking about our regional green infrastructure - in essence an "open space" component to a West Michigan "regional mindset."
This work is far from finished, however. There is an enormous amount of work that remains to be done in refining this vision and integrating it with the day to day work of land use planning within over 100 local units of government. A regional vision is useful because it creates a framework and a context for a myriad of individual decisions. However, ultimately open space protection is a "parcel by parcel" challenge - the application of a host of open space protection tools to many individual parcels of land. From the continuous interplay between the broad vision and discrete actions, the reality of our green infrastructure future will emerge.

The Task Force Process:
The Task Force held 14 meetings between January and November of 2003. During this time, we also commissioned several background reports; held three regional community input sessions; provided detailed input to the Governor's Land Use Leadership Council; commissioned a new regional map atlas on green infrastructure; held a visioning and mapping charrette; and conducted individual team analysis of ten critical issue areas. Click here for the Natural Connections Map (PDF file is 24 mb and may take awhile to download)
The Green Infrastructure Framework:
We used the "green infrastructure" framework developed by The Conservation Fund as a way of structuring our approach to this complex issue. Central to this framework is the idea that green infrastructure is not a luxury or an amenity - it is a critical component of our community that needs to be planned for, invested in, and maintained with the same level of priority and urgency as the "gray" infrastructure of our roads, bridges, buildings and utilities. There is a discipline and a process to planning a green infrastructure strategy. It starts with awareness building and data gathering, and leads to clear priorities for protection and an integrated strategy for implementation with clear measurements of success. And to be effective, the process must be holistic and comprehensive; needs to be done with broad public input; must be grounded in good science; and has to involve up-front funding and the building of green infrastructure into our core public budgets.

Recommendation Overview Protect Critical Biodiversity Areas Support Development of Trails and Greenway Network
Encourage Regional Watershed and Management Planning Protect Our Dunes and Shoreline Promote Integration of Green Infrastructure in Urban Settings
Promote Regional Farmland Preservation Local Implementation Data Sharing


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