Countdown to Earth Day: Why ‘Green Infrastructure’ Is So Important to Kane County
- This month, Kane County Connects will highlight the organizations that are working to conserve and protect our local environment. Check out this “Countdown to Earth Day” feature every day from now until April 22 to learn more about the people and projects that are helping to improve sustainability throughout the Fox Valley! Information for today’s article was contributed by Executive Planner Karen Miller from the Kane County Development & Community Services Department.
“A connected system of parks and parkways is manifestly far more complete and useful than a series of isolated parks.”
— John Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. 1903
Perhaps what most residents don’t know about Kane County’s environmental protection efforts is how much planning goes into establishing and preserving an interconnected system of linkages, corridors and greenways.
It’s called “Green Infrastructure,” and it’s every bit as important to the quality of life here as the “gray infrastructure” of roads, pipes and wires that support transportation, water, energy and communications systems.
Green infrastructure is vital because it:
- Mitigates stormwater damage
- Controls flooding
- Improves water quality
- Protects habitat
- Preserves open space and recreational opportunities
- Encourages local food production
- Enhances bicycle and pedestrian trail access between homes, shopping, schools, parks, and commuter rail and transit stations
In short, the planning that’s often done behind the scenes is among the most important functions of local government.
Kane County’s 2040 Green Infrastructure Plan
The Kane County 2040 Green Infrastructure Plan, adopted by the Kane County Board in May 2012, is based on Kane County’s legacy of open space and natural resource protection and guided by the Green Infrastructure Vision developed by Chicago Wilderness. Green infrastructure supports native species, sustains air and water resources and contributes to the health and quality of life for people and communities.
The Kane County 2040 Green Infrastructure Plan includes analysis of existing natural resources in the county and recommendations for green infrastructure priorities and approaches. The Green Infrastructure Map illustrates these priorities as an interconnected system of natural areas and open spaces including woodlands, wetlands, trails and parks, which are protected and managed for the ecological values and functions they provide to people and wildlife.
The ultimate goal of the Kane County 2040 Green Infrastructure Plan is to lay the groundwork for green infrastructure planning and projects at the regional, community, neighborhood and site levels addressing current issues of water resource management, biodiversity, conservation, water supply, public health, climate change and economic development.
So, Is the Plan Being Followed?
Since its adoption in 2012, evidence of its implementation can be found in current projects, many of which fly below the radar of Kane County citizens.
They include the development of the Wisconsin-Illinois Fox River Water Trail, the Chicago Wilderness Oak Ecosystem Recovery Plan, the rain gardens in Elgin and Aurora, and the Conservation Foundation’s rain barrels program.
And that’s just the beginning. With the recent launch of the Fox Valley Sustainability Network, local governments and organizations are thinking more about the big picture and how they can work more efficiently and consistently to implement the recommendations from the plan.
The interdisciplinary approach is supported by local townships, communities, park districts and a number of Kane County departments, including but not limited to the Kane County Health Department, Division of Transportation, Division of Environmental & Water Resources and Development and Community Services Department and with the coordinated efforts of the Forest Preserve District of Kane County.
About the Kane County Development & Community Services Department
The Kane County Development & Community Services Department oversees countywide Land Use Planning, Building Permits and Inspections for the unincorporated areas and the villages of Virgil, Kaneville and Big Rock, the Kane County Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Maps, Agriculture and Farmland Programs, Historic Preservation, and Cable Television Administration for the unincorporated areas.
About the Kane County Division of Environmental & Water Resources
The Kane County Division of Environmental & Water Resources develops, evaluates, and implements programs to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents and the environment. These programs include the countywide Stormwater Management program, the Kane County Recycles recycling and waste recovery programs, the electric aggregation program, the Sustain Kane programs, and other resource conservation and environmental projects.