Commentary: CLEAR plan making gains in region

ENVIRONMENT GROUP PROMOTES SUSTAINABLE GROWTH

The Free Lance-Star, Saturday, April 11, 2015

BY RICHARD FINKELSTEIN, UNIVERSITY OF MARY WASHINGTON

WITH EARTH DAY celebrations approaching on April 18 at Fredericksburg’s Old Mill Park, we can look back with pride on gains made by our community during the past 18 months since the University of Mary Washington and Marstel–Day, LLC spearheaded the large planning charrette that developed the Climate, Environment, and Readiness plan for Planning District 16, which includes Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford, Spotsylvania, King George, and Caroline.

The CLEAR plan aims to build economic resilience and a sustainable high quality of life for our community through environmental readiness and disaster preparedness. groups, such as the nonprofit Friends of the Rappahannock, businesses like Stafford Printing and Marstel–Day, planning groups that include the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance and George Washington Regional Commission, as well as numerous representatives from city and county agencies. CLEAR has now moved toward these goals:

– Identifying sustainable activities that save homeowners and businesses money
– Protecting private property by creating and coordinating plans for floods and severe weather emergencies
– Sustaining our resources and open spaces
– Building resilience through prevention and planning
– Diversifying the regional economy with green jobs.

CLEAR is sponsoring upcoming events, including one Wednesday, April 15 at 4 p.m. at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center, 1119 Hanover St. Top call drummer Rich Redmond, who records with Jason Aldean, Keith Urban and many others, will perform and talk about “Mother Nature, Motivation, and Music.” Tickets are free but registration is required at: eventbrite.com/e/rich-redmond-motivational-crash-event-tickets-16219946296.

And next month, CLEAR is sponsoring an event to tell people about new technologies that will save homeowners and businesses on their energy bills while conserving our resources. On Tuesday, May 19, at 6:30 p.m., in the Jepson Alumni Executive Center, FredTech, Marstel–Day, and UMW are sponsoring a pre-launch of Solarize, a program that reduces costs for bringing solar energy to a home or business. The event is free and open to everyone, but registration is required at: eventbrite.com/e/solarize-pre-launch-tickets-16226120764.

These events are building on previous action steps from the CLEAR plan.

Last November, CLEAR brought over 80 regional stakeholders to consider the cost benefits of new alternative energies. Fredericksburg City Manager Bev Cameron oversaw the development of a greenhouse gas emissions inventory for the city, now being coordinated with a similar audit for UMW. By setting current baselines for energy use, these documents identify means for energy and cost savings for taxpayers. Fredericksburg’s greenhouse gas inventory on the Fredericksburg CLEAR Facebook page.

Also available on the Facebook page is a CLEAR report on land-use changes in in our region. The rapid development we’ve seen during the last 20 years have drastically altered our open landscapes: Forested areas in the region have declined over 14 percent while developed areas have pushed out open spaces and increased by 188 percent since 2001. Spotsylvania and Caroline counties have seen the most rapidly accelerating growth, followed by King George.

These changes threaten our resilience in at least two ways: The decline in local farm production makes dangerous shortages more likely should flooding and military emergencies cripple trucking. And the loss of forested areas endangers homes, businesses and the environment because natural protections against flooding and erosion disappear when green spaces are eliminated.

Next year, CLEAR will be sponsoring a food security conference to bolster local farmers. And it is working with Friends of the Rappahannock, the Trust for Public Lands, and the city and county soil and water agencies to coordinate activities that protect the Rappahannock, our homes and our cultural treasures.

There is much about which we can all be optimistic: Under the leadership of Anne Little, Tree Fredericksburg has recently celebrated the planting of its 4,000th tree. Enlarging Fredericksburg’s urban forest combats global warming, cools city streets and raises our property values. In conjunction with UMW’s Transformation 20/20 Economic Development Plan, SimVentions is developing its Connect the Dots program to help attract new employers while reducing long commutes and taking people off clogged roads.

Recycling initiatives are bearing fruit: CLEAR is supporting recycling efforts in area schools, and to help strengthen K–12 Standards of Learning about the environment. We should all be glad that our business community, led by a strong Chamber of Commerce, recognizes that communication and education are keys to protecting our environment, which means safeguarding our health, safety and prosperity.

CLEAR plan: cas.umw.edu/dean/files/2015/03/CLEAR-updated-as-of-Jan-2015.pdf

Richard Finkelstein is dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Mary Washington and an organizer of the CLEAR plan.

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