Landscapes are all around our cities, whether they’re outside a home, storefront, manufacturing facility or in municipal parks. The trend toward sustainable parks has been growing over the last 20 years and continues to grow as environmental concerns move to the forefront of public knowledge.
Sustainable landscapes have several components, including preserving natural resources; using existing native plants and removing invasive plants; favoring organic fertilizers, mulch and compost; capturing stormwater; and using wetlands for increased flood control. In many cases, sustainable landscapes also have historic preservation pieces.
Two cities — Carlsbad, Calif., and Pittsburgh, Pa. — have committed in recent years to sustainable landscaping. The city of Pittsburgh, as a large municipality, has several players in its parks system. Citiparks is in charge of programming; the department of public works is in charge of park maintenance, such as mowing, controlling litter, etc.; and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is in charge of fundraising, horticulture, forestry and preservation.
The last two entities are most involved in sustainable landscaping.
Kara Smith, principal environmental planner with the city of Pittsburgh, said the city has a long history of environmental issues going back to the coal mining and steel industries. When those two industries went into decline, they left a variety of environmental issues that cause Pittsburgh to be both flood and landslide prone, as an example. Plus the city has the same problems as other cities — invasive species and declining tree canopies.
Tom Paulin, superintendent of Park Maintenance Services in the city of Pittsburgh’s department of public works, said it was around 2016 when the decision was made to not use pesticides unless prior approval of the superintendent is obtained. The department recently contracted with a company for landscape maintenance and that was included in the contract.
“The overall contract includes sustainability management,” he said.
Additionally, Paulin said all employees have been trained at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, ensuring they understand what sustainability is.
Paulin said the move toward more sustainability came from city leadership. “This is the direction our mayor wants to move forward. We partner with the parks conservancy and rely on them as well. We’re always trying to do the right thing.”