In search for public green space, Virginia Beach looks to co-opt stormwater practices

Virginia Beach parks employees are looking at ways to incorporate stormwater runoff into gardens, parks and other public spaces as they try to keep up with development in the city.

The Pembroke Strategic Growth area includes space for parks, which the Open Space Advisory Committee hopes to expand on. (Courtesy of vbgov.com)
The Pembroke Strategic Growth area includes space for parks, which the Open Space Advisory Committee hopes to expand on. (Courtesy of vbgov.com)

The city’s Parks & Recreation Department and its Open Space Advisory Committee want to make sure Virginia Beach’s strategic growth plans keep areas designated as parks or public spaces so the land is not overdeveloped.

The hope is to provide more outdoor areas in which people can gather and to create a sense of open space, even amid urban surroundings. One of the ways the open space advocates want to do that is by persuading developers and city officials to use stormwater management areas as public parks.

Open Space Advisory Committee members, discussing the issue at a Nov. 23 meeting, cited examples from other cities where they have seen that strategy used.

Lillian Gilbert, vice chairwoman of the committee, said Cincinnati has a “beautiful collection” of stormwater gardens, and that Detroit has created small gardens and parks along its waterfront using stormwater runoff.

“This is really a trend that has really done some great things for cities so we’re hoping that we do some of this here,” Duke said.

Virginia Beach has its own examples. They include a stormwater management pond at Town Center and different stormwater uses at the Convention Center and the Bow Creek Recreation Center.

“I really want to keep this front and center on City Council’s mind,” said Michael Kalvort, the city’s director of parks and recreation and a member of the advisory committee. “It’s easy for them to forget about green space when they’re talking about development.”

Barbara Duke, a parks and rec planner, said the strategy is particularly targeted at the city’s strategic growth areas.

“We’re trying to see if there’s a way to also use that space for the public,” she said.

The Parks and Recreation department intends to release a more detailed outdoors plan in early 2016 that will serve as a guide for obtaining new open spaces and maintaining existing ones. Duke said that plan will come out with an updated comprehensive plan from the city’s planning department. The planning department is slated to release a draft of its comprehensive plan to the public in December and host workshops in January to get community feedback.

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