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Hampton residents weigh in on resiliency plan

Hampton residents look over data and share their thoughts on proposals from the Natural Infrastructure Resiliency Plan on Thursday, May 23, 2024.
Nick McNamara / WHRO
Hampton residents look over data and share their thoughts on proposals from the Natural Infrastructure Resiliency Plan on Thursday, May 23, 2024.

The open house showcased proposals to bolster the city’s natural infrastructure.

Land, water and people are three core focuses guiding the City of Hampton’s proposed Natural Infrastructure Resiliency Plan.

The plan’s been designed by Charlottesville-based non-profit Green Infrastructure Center in partnership with the city.

Residents recently got another opportunity to share their thoughts on the plan at an open house in the Mary W. Jackson Neighborhood Center. Their input will help shape the final report when it comes to the Hampton City Council for adoption in the Fall.

“We have a vision for how the land can support natural infrastructure, how the water can support natural infrastructure, and then how we as people interact with natural infrastructure,” Hampton Resiliency Specialist Olivia Askew said during a city council briefing.

Natural infrastructure refers to the features that contribute to things like cleaner air, cleaner water and thriving ecosystems - whether wild or constructed.

“You do have some huge natural habitats in the city as well,” said Lauren Doran from the Green Infrastructure Center. “Part of what we're looking at is how do we connect those and make sure that movement — wildlife movement and people movement — can kind of connect to those large spaces.”

Key points include finding ways to increase human access to natural assets equitably, protecting wetlands from destruction as sea levels rise and creating an urban forestry program. The citywide plan is a complement to other resiliency work being done in Hampton.

One proposal is to increase Hampton’s tree canopy coverage by 1% - from 32 to 33% - over the next 10 years.

That will cost more than $1 million over that decade, but the increase would lead to tangible environmental benefits. Planners estimate the additional trees would capture nearly 3,000 pounds of nitrogen, over 200 pounds of phosphorus, and millions of gallons of storm water runoff each year.

Doran said they also overlaid their data with maps identifying historically redlined areas — communities that faced systemic financial neglect as a result of government and business policies — to allow for strategies that can target the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“We have a map of the heat and equity in tree planting across the city,” Doran said. “So looking at where are the hottest places and where are the lowest income places, and then where can we plant trees there that would mitigate that heat.”

Wetlands Watch Assistant Director Shereen Hughes said she thinks the plan is on the right track, though residents may need some convincing.

“There's already been some effort to increase appreciation of native plants and living shorelines in the area,” she said. “That helps. And I think the idea of having demonstration projects in public spaces is very helpful.”

Council members seemed receptive to the plan during a work session briefing. It may come before the council for adoption as soon as August.

You can learn more about the plan and share your thoughts on the City of Hampton website.

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