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Portsmouth Smart Growth and Clarke County Chili

Portsmouth joggerA Bay Daily tip-of-the-hat to Portsmouth, Va., which last week received one of seven National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Portsmouth won for its “Destination Portsmouth” project, a complete overhaul of the aging industrial port city’s development and land use regulations. The goal of the rewrite is to fulfill a community vision for a more livable, sustainable, pedestrian-friendly city and to provide new economic development opportunities.

According to EPA, the federal agency created the smart growth awards a decade ago to recognize exceptional approaches to development that respect the environment, foster economic vitality, enhance quality of life, and provide new opportunities for disadvantaged communities. Winners must demonstrate effectiveness in creating sustainable communities, innovation, public involvement, stakeholder partnerships, and national models.

Smart growth strategies encourage reusing already-developed land and taking advantage of existing Hight Street,Portsmouthinfrastructure to preserve open space, protect the environment, and enhance quality of life.

“Each element of smart growth development complements and enhances the other elements, and each investment reaps multiple environmental benefits,” EPA’s website says. “For example, rain gardens on streets capture and filter stormwater runoff, which protects water quality, but they also make the street more pleasant for pedestrians and bicyclists, encouraging more people to try options besides driving.”

Over an 18-month period, Portsmouth officials rewrote and adopted regulations to create a more walkable, sustainable, convenient city. As a result, the city now offers its residents, businesses, and visitors greater choices in where to live, work, and play. For a closer look at “Destination Portsmouth,” check out this video.

Chili and C Spout Run

Another tip-of-the-hat goes to Clarke County, Va., residents in the Spout Run watershed, who gathered last week at a local school for a chili dinner “taste-off” and to discuss cleaning up their neighborhood streams.

Chili cook off public eventWhile popular and delicious, the eight pots of local chili weren’t the catalyst that attracted some 90 residents to the meeting. The real draw was a draft stream restoration plan developed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to reduce pollution and remove Spout Run from EPA’s “dirty waters list” by 2025. The state is seeking community feedback on the plan through Jan. 4, 2013.

The cleanup plan is one of many local stream restoration plans in place or being developed across Virginia. Cumulatively, they comprise what can be called Virginia’s Bay Clean Water Blueprint, a federal-state-local partnership effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Spout Run includes 14 miles of spring-fed streams that ultimately drain into the Shenandoah River (and Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay) in northwestern Virginia. The 14,000-acre watershed includes agricultural, forested, and urban residential areas -- land uses typical for this part of the Bay watershed, making Spout Run an ideal model for restoration. Its streams suffer from too much sediment and bacteria pollution.

By all accounts the restoration of Spout Run enjoys tremendous community support. Even before the state drew up a cleanup plan, Clarke County, local citizens, and stakeholder groups were hard at work, Nesha McRae with the state DCR told The Winchester Star this week. And according to C Spout Run, a public-private partnership of local government, conservation agencies, and watershed groups, the Spout Run drainage basin is “small enough that real progress can be made relatively quickly on a watershed scale.”

Also providing a boost are Clarke County zoning ordinances that protect open space and water quality, conservation easements that voluntarily protect 20,000 acres of private land from development, and an expanding citizen volunteer stream monitoring program.

Such community-based plans, partnerships, and energy may well be the formula for success in restoring Spout Run and, replicated across the region, restoring the entire Bay watershed. Kudos to all involved!

Chuck Epes
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

(Top two photos: Portsmouth, Va.; Bottom photo: Jill Keihn.)


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You need to create a special award for areas of the Chesapeake Bay region that aren't doing anything for smart growth -- I nominate Charles County as the first recipient of this award -- check out

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