Leading Change in Metro Vancouver: A focus on Green Infrastructure Services embeds ‘green culture’, spurs innovation, in the Township of Langley
Rain Gardens – evolving standard practice in Langley Township
Almost a decade ago, the Township of Langley was a host municipality for Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation in Metro Vancouver: The 2007 Series. Resource protection – for groundwater supply and fisheries habitat – was the driver for implementing ‘green infrastructure’ in Langley.
For the past decade, Township staff have been learning and adapting, and their hands-on experience is reflected in HOW implementation of Langley’s rain garden program has evolved in successive development areas. Moving ahead on a ‘green’ platform has gained positive momentum in the Township as Council has found it easy to support the initiatives of the staff.
“The Township of Langley is a community of 113,000 of which 75% of the land area is within the Agricultural Land Reserve. This presents a delicate balance between the preservation of agricultural land and the continued pressure for urban development,” stated Councillor Charlie Fox when he welcomed attendees to the 2007 event.
“It is within this context that the staff and Council champion the theme of harmony and integration as we endeavour to focus on ‘green’ initiatives and programs.”
Showcasing Spurs Innovation
A decade ago, the Partnership’s goal in showcasing innovation and celebrating successes was to promote networking, build regional capacity, and help local governments move ‘from awareness to action’ – through sharing of green infrastructure approaches, tools, experiences and lessons learned as an outcome of designing with nature.
At showcasing events, we witnessed the motivational power of celebrating successes. We also recognized the importance of “telling the story” about the leadership shown by local government.
Looking back, successive showcasing series during the period 2006 through 2008 helped local government practitioners immeasurably. Celebrating their accomplishments created a ripple effect that spurred even more innovation.
Titled Harmony and Integration, the Langley event in 2007 showcased what can be accomplished with large-scale projects when Council, the community and staff are in alignment and embrace a ‘green culture’.
A decade later, rain gardens are standard practice in the Township, and standard practice is evolving.
Green Approaches to Neighbourhood Development
Green Infrastructure Services, as one of three departments within the Development Services section of the Community Development Division, is responsible for rain garden implementation through the development approval process. The other two departments are Development Engineering and Development Planning.
In his former role of managing landscape requirements for developments, Al Neufeld (now Manager, Parks Administration, Design and Development) was involved in early stages of rain garden implementation and the establishment of a Green Infrastructure Services Department. He provides the following perspective on the importance of green infrastructure in the way the Township does business:
Neighbourhood Technical Teams: “Through the community and neighbourhood planning process, multidisciplinary teams collaborate in Neighbourhood Technical Teams to integrate the landscape architecture, planning and engineering perspectives. The site specific design is reviewed for coordination by the Green Infrastructure Services, Development Engineering and Development Planning departments.”
“Green Infrastructure Services promotes, encourages and provides for the translation of broad goals and objectives as outlined in the municipality’s Sustainability Charter, to practical applications as part of development proposals.”
“Langley is planning neighbourhoods based on catchment areas. This means managing each as a system,” emphasizes Al Neufeld.
Learn by Doing & Adapt
Yolanda Leung, Landscape Design Coordinator, has been part of the process since inception. She reflects on lessons learned and experience gained by Langley Township over the past decade:
“To date (from May 2006 to October 2015), an estimated 3100 lineal metres of rain gardens have been handed over from developers for maintenance by the Township of Langley and by property owners that front rain gardens.”
“Many more hundreds of metres of rain gardens are under design and under construction. We are learning by doing. In this way, we refine expectations for the finished product. The designs are more refined and the level of coordination for rain garden design and construction has improved.”
“There has been an evolution in our thinking and in our approach as successive neighbourhoods have been developed.”
“In the beginning, our focus for Green Infrastructure was on what we could achieve within greenways. Then our attention turned to rain gardens. Building on a history of successes, we are now implementing what the Township describes as blue links.”
“A driver for this ongoing evolution is the incorporation of habitat compensation for the fisheries resource. Engineering Operations has made information available on the benefits of rain gardens and importance of maintenance. Our success belongs to everyone.”
To Learn More:
Visit the Township of Langley’s Rain Garden webpage, http://www.tol.ca/Land-Use-and-Development/Rain-Gardens. Download the Rain Garden Brochure