On May 14-16, 2019, the National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP) held its first blended learning pilot in partnership with the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) to test out a new method of providing the NGICP curriculum. The training was held in Philadelphia and hosted by the Philadelphia Parks Department. Dr. Dwane Jones, Director of the University of District Columbia’s College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) led the course. As Dwane went over the modules, he stressed the importance of green infrastructure (GI) and what the NGICP program has to offer.

There were 27 participants, all of whom were parks staff from across the country. The students were given access to the curriculum online, six-weeks before attending the condensed 2 days in-person training (which would otherwise have been 5 days). This condensed version of the training was well received. Many participants said that reviewing the modules ahead of time better prepared them for the in-person training.  A paper-based exam was administered at the end of the in-person training.

Philadelphia is considered a “green infrastructure pioneer” for the way the city is using a comprehensive, nature-based approach to deal with stormwater management and leveraging parks and open space to meet federal water-quality mandates. Training participants learned firsthand how the city is tackling these issues and how they can address similar issues with green infrastructure in parks.

The GI site visits were led by Daniel Lawson from Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PP&R) and Daniel Schupsky from the Philadelphia Department. They discussed how they work together to install and maintain the GI projects at these sites.

Here is a brief overview of the GI practices found at each site:

  • Herron Park is a city-owned facility managed by Philadephia Parks & Recreation agency that was transformed from a completely impervious site to include a subsurface infiltration system, porous paving, a rain garden and stormwater trees.
  • Dickinson Square Park included the installation of a tree trench, stormwater bump out, and several new street trees that manage more than 25,000 square feet of nearby impervious surfaces.
  • Ralph Brooks Park: The stormwater management features here included a rain garden, an underground storage basin beneath the basketball court.
  • Wharton Square Playground included the installation of a rain garden.

We were fortunate to have onsite the presence of the community leaders and the engineers directly involved with the projects. The engineers provided an informative overview of the design and maintenance required for these projects. The community leaders discussed the challenges they faced in integrating these green infrastructure projects into their community.

I learned from this experience that green infrastructure is very much a community activity, involving and impacting all members of society. Success is very much a team effort, with compromise for some yet benefits for all.

Thank you to PP&R for their hospitality and to NRPA for organizing this training, which was a tremendous success.