Through a new grant funded Equity-Based Community Greening Program, Watertown has identified specific neighborhoods that are more vulnerable to impacts of climate change, like flooding from extreme storms and urban heat, and designed solutions to make these areas safer, enjoyable, and more resilient for residents who live there.
Climate change impacts can create hazards that threaten the safety and well-being of Watertown residents. Three major hazards we face are flooding, extreme storms, and extreme heat.
Creating climate-resilient neighborhoods means our residents, businesses, institutions, and infrastructure are well prepared to endure these acute climate shocks and rebound to a healthy, safe, and thriving business-as-usual.
Watertown has been awarded a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Action Grant for an Equity-Based Community Greening Program to enhance resilience to climate hazards in climate-vulnerable neighborhoods.
Read the project flyer
What is climate-vulnerability?
Climate-vulnerability describes the degree that certain factors of natural, man-made, and social systems may be at risk of harm from exposure to impacts from climate change. For example, a neighborhood with few mature trees may have hotter temperatures during the summer than other neighborhoods, leading to higher energy bills and making being outside more uncomfortable, or even unsafe, during heat waves. We can address natural and man-made vulnerabilities, such as limited tree canopy and insufficient stormwater infrastructure, to create more resilient neighborhoods.
Not all neighborhoods will experience the same impacts at the same level. Geographic locations, available resources, socio-economic characteristics, and other unique aspects can affect how vulnerable each neighborhood is to climate hazards. For example, by planting more trees in neighborhoods with less tree canopy, we can decrease residents’ energy bills and lower risk of heat stress during hot summer months.
Watertown is prioritizing our next investments in green infrastructure in neighborhoods that are located in the most demographically and environmentally vulnerable areas of Watertown.
Equitable Greening Outcomes
In the first phase of the program, running through June of 2022, we achieved the following outcomes:
- Map of climate-vulnerable neighborhoods in Watertown
- Community conversations held about the role of trees and green infrastructure
- Locations identified for 15 stormwater tree trenches in climate-vulnerable neighborhoods
- Design drawings for three Green Streets in climate-vulnerable neighborhoods
Priority Equity Areas and Proposed Green Streets
This map of Priority Equity Areas within Watertown was developed by combining geographical data for the following factors:
- EPA-defined Environmental Justice Areas
- Concentration of renters
- Concentration of seniors
- Concentration of low-income residents
- Percent tree cover
- Percent impervious surface
- Local flood data
- Urban heat island data and projections
We now have a map (below) of the most climate-vulnerable parts of the City, which means we can focus our next green infrastructure investments in the areas that will benefit the most.
The City has also conducted an assessment to map areas of our community experiencing the urban heat island effect. This assessment will help the City prioritize green infrastructure projects that will lower energy costs, minimize public health risks from extreme heat, and make our neighborhoods more livable.
Read the Assessment
How Were the Proposed Green Streets Identified?
The three streets being considered for redesign as Green Streets are located within the developed Priority Equity Areas. Dexter Ave, Francis Street, and Templeton Parkway were chosen because they have good soils, have some existing green space between the street and sidewalk, are in areas with lower percent tree cover and higher heat vulnerability, and because the existing drainage system on those streets is favorable for green infrastructure retrofits. These streets are just that- proposed- and we are creating preliminary designs with the public’s input. They are not yet funded or scheduled to be constructed. View the 75% design drawings here.
The Department of Community Development and Planning held a public meeting on March 31, 2022 to discuss the proposed designs for the three Green Streets and seek resident feedback and input. If you missed the meeting, the presentation slides and initial 10% design concepts are linked below. You can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments, or to sign up for email updates about the project.
View the presentation slides here.
DCDP also hosted a green infrastructure walking tour in May 2022 to show existing examples of GSI in Watertown and discuss its many benefits.
The City is committed to working closely with residents on this program. A team of paid residents are helping shape the program and engage with our community during the process. Involving residents from within the neighborhoods they serve is effective for community outreach because resident team members can personally connect with community members during outreach, build a foundation of trust, and support community buy-in for implementation.
Two different paid roles for residents, Ambassadors and Core Team Members, support community outreach for this project. Ambassadors will be giving presentations about the project to local organizations, attending community events, and reporting feedback captured during conversations with community members to the Core Team Members. The Core Team of residents will review draft materials and assist the City in planning projects and engagement.