Green Infrastructure in Parks: A Guide to Collaboration, Funding, and Community Engagement

In May 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a guide on how stormwater management agencies could work with parks departments to integrate green infrastructure solutions into park lands. The guide walks municipalities through the steps of developing a green infrastructure program including: (1) identifying and engaging partners, (2) building relationships, (3) leveraging funding, (4) identifying opportunities for green infrastructure, (5) planning maintenance, and (6) undertaking pilot projects.  The guide discusses how green infrastructure investments could be leveraged to provide job opportunities for residents and provides examples of cities that have developed workforce development components of their green infrastructure programs.  The guide also includes a checklist that city officials can use to identify opportunities to integrate green infrastructure into city parks. Although the guide does not explicitly address how green infrastructure can be used as strategy for adapting to climate change, some of the benefits of green infrastructure highlighted in the report include managing rainfall from changing precipitation patterns, reducing urban heat islands, and sequestering carbon pollution.

The guide talks about different ways that green infrastructure can be integrated into park landscapes:

  • Parking Lotsusing permeable pavements, incorporating bioretention and trees in medians, and amending soils to improve infiltration and pollutant removal
  • Visitor Centers – creating demonstration rain gardens, using green roofs, and installing rain barrels and planter boxes
  • Playing fields – designing playing fields to serve as temporary storage areas of stormwater
  • Trails – using permeable pavements for hiking and biking trails, and planting trees and installing biorention alongside trails
  • Wetlands and Drainage Systems – integrating natural buffers along stream channels, constructing wetlands to enhance drainage, and restoring wildlife habitat that can retain stormwater.
Elmwood Park - Omaha, NE Historic Fourth Ward Park - Atlanta, GA


Case studies feature how different cities have integrated green infrastructure into city parks:

  • Indianapolis, IN – integrated 25,400 square feet of stormwater planters along the 8-mile Indianapolis Cultural Train.
  • Philadelphia, PA – redeveloped Herron Park to incorporate new recreational and stormwater management features including a porous surface basketball court and playground, rain gardens with water-tolerate native plants, a vegetated swale, and an infiltration trench.
  • Shoreline, WA – used bond funding to develop a 1.33 acre bioretention facility of constructed and enhanced wetlands at Cromwell Park to capture and filter stormwater.
  • Long Island City, NY – converted a 5.5 acre former industrial site to a multi-use park, Hunter Point South Waterfront Park, that incorporates stormwater manage features and recreation amenities including bioretention areas around the parks perimeter that manage runoff from surrounding streets.
  • Atlanta, GA – converted blighted former industrial and commercial property into a 17-acre urban park, Historic Fourth Ward Park, adjacent to the Atlanta Beltline (a former railway line being redeveloped as a multi-use trail) that can capture runoff from a 100-year storm, using bioretention, underground cisterns, and pervious ground cover.
  • Los Angeles, CA – converted the Sun Valley Park to reduce flooding, treat stormwater, and collect rainwater for watering and groundwater recharge.
  • Omaha, NE – retrofit Elmwood park to divert stormwater to prevent combine sewer overflows and to manage stormwater from a 100-year storm event, saving the city $550,000 in additional costs that would have been required to upgrade the existing sewer infrastructure.
  • Houston, TX –created parks in underserved areas to provide dual flood control and recreational benefits; two-thirds of the park can serve as a detention basin to help address periodic flooding.
  • Franklin, MA – installed a low cost ($16,000) rain garden in a multi-use park to demonstrate the opportunity for improving open space and implementing site-level green infrastructure approaches.
  • Lawrence, MA – redeveloped a former brownfield site to restore woodland and riparian habitat, integrate rain gardens, and provide recreational trails.


For more information on how green infrastructure can be used to help cities adapt to changing precipitation patterns as a result of climate change, see Georgetown Climate Center’s Green Infrastructure Toolkit.

Publication Date: May 2017

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