UConn Extension educators Laura Brown, Kristina Kelly, and Emily Wilson are presenting at the CT Trails Symposium on Thursday, October 19th. The CT Greenways Council, in partnership with Goodwin College, encourages you to engage in conversation about why and how to put your local trail systems to work for your community. Speakers and panels will use local examples to illustrate the demand for and benefits of local trails and how your community can sustain a world class trail system. Registration is only $25 and includes lunch. The full agenda is available online.
Connecticut towns are increasingly recognizing the impact of stormwater runoff on water quality. Low impact development (LID), also called green stormwater infrastructure, is a major strategy to address these issues. The Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) program at the Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) has been working with towns on these issues since 1991. With NEMO’s 25th anniversary looming and a major revision of Connecticut’s stormwater regulations in the process of being finalized, NEMO, with the help of a UConn Extension intern, recently completed a 9-month study on the status of LID adoption in towns across the state.
LID is a broad strategy involving a number of stormwater practices designed to infiltrate runoff back into the ground, reducing flooding, erosion, and water pollution problems. These strategies include permeable pavements, green roofs, bio retention areas, and other practices designed to reduce impervious cover. Some towns have updated their regulations to allow for or even require the use of these practices where feasible. Others however have lagged behind and actually have regulations that discourage or prohibit developers, often inadvertently, from pursuing them. NEMO’s study sought to get a better handle on the progress made on this front.
The NEMO study had two phases. In Phase One, NEMO research assistant Manon LeFevre conducted exhaustive (and exhausting) internet research on the land use plans and regulations of 85 of CT’s 169 towns (the number of towns was dictated by available resources and is not a scientifically random sample). Towns were “scored” for the number of LID strategies that appeared in these documents, based on the 14 specific practices suggested in the 2009 NEMO guide Developing a Sustainable Community. A guide to Help Connecticut Communities Craft Plans and Regulations that Protect Water Quality.
In Phase Two, follow-up phone interviews were conducted for the vast majority (78) of these towns by Low Impact Development in Connecticut Manon and Kerrin Kinnear, an Extension Intern in the UConn Environmental Studies program. Kerrin and Manon doggedly pursued town planners and other municipal staff to ascertain the reasons why their town did or did not pursue LID, the greatest barriers they face related to this type of development, and if they had any recommendations for us.
As NEMO educators have long thought, the greatest driver of LID regulations at the local level are local champions—either staff or land use commissioners. Thus efforts to educate and empower those audiences are still the most effective way of making LID commonplace (table, lower left).
On the barriers side, cost and lack of educational opportunities about LID were the top vote getters (table, lower right). However, many of the barriers can also be viewed as education issues. The cost category also encompasses perceptions that LID is more expensive, although that is not always the case and education about the true costs could help that. Reluctant town staff were also among the top vote getters for barriers, but education directed at those audiences may also help allay some of their concerns. Finally, long-term maintenance was often cited as an area of concern and more could be done through education and assistance to help address that.
In sum, the results of the NEMO LID study provide some useful information to help guide the future municipal assistance efforts of CLEAR, CT DEEP, and others. Most towns in Connecticut seem to have at least some language related to low impact development (LID) in their plans and regulations, largely due to the work of dedicated local proponents. However, not all of this this leads to regulations outlining specific LID practices, and additional resources are needed, with incentive funding and education leading the list of needs. This project was partially funded by UConn Extension and CT DEEP.
CLEAR’s Extension faculty have long used maps to educate land use decision makers and the public about Connecticut’s landscape and natural resources. The Connecticut’s Changing Landscape (CCL) research project has been the foundation of the education. CCL is a series of satellite-derived land cover maps for six dates between 1985 and 2010 (2105 is coming soon) that includes 12 classes such as development, turf, agricultural field and forest.
Although the CCL website has evolved with time and technology, it has always strived to integrate the graphic, quantitative and geospatial information in easy to access ways – virtually the same MO of the Story Map. Story maps easily integrate text, multi-media like photos and video, graphics and of course, interactive maps in one, contained interface.
CLEAR’s extension faculty were energized and began to implement loads of CCL information into CLEAR’s first Story Map – Connecticut’s Changing Landscape. It is an ideal way to boil down the inherently complex information including combinations of land cover categories, time intervals, derivatives and scales.
Mapping Great Gull Island with an Unmanned Aircraft
Assistant Extension Educator Joel Stocker spends a lot of his work and personal time documenting changes to the shoreline. In 2010 he contacted Helen Hays, asking if he could capture photographs over Great Gull Island with his homemade drone. She agreed. While on the island, Helen told him about the problem with invasive plants, and he connected her with Juliana Barrett.
Recognizing high-resolution aerials could be used to monitor vegetation management Juliana included experiments with aerial drone flights as part of a Connecticut Sea Grant proposal. In April 2013 the official Extension/Sea Grant flights took place, fully sanctioned by the FAA. Over 370 photographs were captured from a small four prop multirotor quadcopter, later processed using two different software systems, AgiSoft Photoscan and Pix4Dmapper. The result is a full high-resolution orthomosaic image of the entire island – a detailed tool for the habitat management plan. In addition the Pix4D software produced a full 3D topographic map, great potential for measuring erosion and the before and after effects of natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy.
UConn Extension has a Hex Coptor that we are using in agriculture and land use research. Here is a photo from a flight in early June, looking over some agriculture fields. The Hex was flying at 100 feet, on an FAA approved flight.
Last week at the Esri International User Conference in San Diego, UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research‘s Emily Wilson and Chet Arnold received the First Place Award in the Science/Technology/Education category of the Esri Storytelling with Maps Contest. There were over 400 submissions to the contest and only 5 first place winners. Over 16,000 GIS professionals from around the world attended the conference. As a result of the award, Emily was asked to present in two sessions with audiences of about 500 and 300 people, respectively.
A story map is a simple yet powerful way to engage an audience that combines interactive maps, data, text, graphics and images. Story Maps have become a major focus of Esri, the industry leader in GIS technology. Our story map, called Connecticut’s Changing Landscape, highlights information from the 25 year land cover series produced at CLEAR. See the winning story map at the link: http://s.uconn.edu/ctstory
CLEAR’s Land Use Academy has won the 2014 Education Award from the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association. The Academy, created in 2007, provides basic training for municipal land use commissioners on roles and responsibilities, legal requirements and site plan reading, as well as advanced training on emerging topics. As we all know, land use in the Nutmeg State is determined almost exclusively at the municipal level, by volunteer commissioners who are not necessarily up to speed on what they’re really supposed to be doing, or how. The LUA is the principal organization in the state addressing this critical need for education. The Academy is founded on a strong partnership between UConn, the Connecticut Bar Association, the state’s Regional Planning Organizations, and the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management (CT OPM).
The lion’s share of the kudos go to CLEAR Land Use Planning Educator Bruce Hyde, who oversees the Academy and does everything from agenda planning to lecturing to ordering the lunch and taking registration. Bruce is a veteran of over 30 years of professional planning work in both Vermont and Connecticut, but that doesn’t mean that the LUA is “old school.” Most Academy lectures, for instance, include audience response interludes using “clickers,” allowing Bruce and our incredible stable of Bar Association lecturers to get the pulse of the audience on certain topics and/or quiz them on various points.
The CCAPA award letter states: “The Chapter has benefited from this program for years on end and we are delighted to recognize its efforts.” From our enormously self-serving but nonetheless observant perspective, we agree that the Land Use Academy serves an important role in helping Connecticut towns approach their land use decision-making in a defensible, thorough and conscientious manner. And with very modest resources, the LUA has had a broad reach: since 2007 the Academy has trained over 1300 people from commissions in 156 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. So, CONGRATS to Bruce to and to our barrister co-conspirators, most especially Rich Roberts, Ken Slater, and Mark Branse.
The Natural Resource Conservation Academy (NRCA) is an innovative program in conservation and land use planning for a select group of Connecticut high school students. The Academy starts with a week-long field course at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Throughout the week, students interact with UConn faculty and learn about mapping and geospatial information, water, forestry, wildlife, soils and more. However, to pass muster at the Academy the work/fun doesn’t end there! In the months to come, students complete a natural resource project in their communities, using the skills and knowledge that they gained over the summer.
Quite a few CLEAR faculty participate in the summer field course. Because of its obvious superiority to all the other disciplines, Day One of the Academy is dedicated to mapping and geospatial information. Thus, Cary and I had the opportunity to work with this bright group of students and expose them to all sorts of fun mapping topics.
Every 5.5 years or so (don’t ask!) CLEAR issues a Progress Report in an attempt to summarize and characterize highlights of our work. Our second such report is now out!
CLEAR is smaller than it once was—there are about 8 full-time faculty and staff working on Center projects on a daily basis—but our small size has not prevented us from engaging in a long list of projects with an even longer list of partners. Nor have we slacked off on producing websites, web tools, publications, and now smartphone apps.
The body of the Report is given to short descriptions of key impacts made by our research, geospatial training and tools, and outreach education programs. Highlighted examples include the widespread use of our Changing Landscape land cover information, the use of the CT ECO web mapping site during Tropical Storm Irene, CT NEMO’s work on a national precedent setting water quality project on campus, and the statewide impact of the Land Use Academy, which has trained over 900 people from 149 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.