by Leslie Frick (view article in the Gazette)
Enter town from the south on Main Street and you’ll see a sign proclaiming Stillwater a “GreenStep City.” It’s been true since 2018 when we joined cities across the state (now numbering 140) with sustainability and resiliency goals to counteract climate change. Yay!
Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary program that helps cities achieve green best practices in business, transportation, clean energy, and protection of the environment. The GreenStep Cities Team is made up of volunteers from Sustainable Stillwater Minnesota and the city’s zoning director, Graham Tait.
Together we’ve advanced Stillwater from Step 1 to Step 2, and are working to eventually be a Step 5 city.
“I see GreenStep Cities as the framework to preserving and forging Stillwater as a special place to work and play for both people and animals alike,” Graham said.
Our efforts are already saving taxpayers money. Two parking lots have been retrofitted with low-cost lighting and 57% of the city’s buildings are now powered by renewable energy from solar gardens and solar installations.
Lighting at City Hall is being replaced with new fixtures or LED bulbs. Community Thread’s “Connector Loop” links riders to housing, retail, businesses, and other destinations. The city supports the buy-local movement like our Saturday Farmers’ Market and the expansion of the Agricultural Preservation District that allows beekeeping and raising chickens in neighborhoods of medium density. Public and private tree planting and an emerald ash borer management plan are GreenSteps we’re accomplishing. There is also a stormwater management policy in effect.
Sustainable Stillwater MN is working with the city to revamp its zoning code to better reflect the sustainable values laid out in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan promotes that promote mixed-use development and conservation of natural areas, like those now in our Liberty and Legends communities. Next year will see the creation of a new riverside park on the north end of town.
As Stillwater becomes a popular bicycle destination, smart redesign under the city’s “complete street policy” is critical to create a safe pedestrian zone alongside bicycle and vehicular traffic.
Just as important, “complete street” redesign reduces vehicle traffic while foot traffic increases, which helps retain customers for our downtown businesses. Stillwater is also working toward becoming a “Bird City” by being friendlier to our feathered neighbors even though the restoration planting of native species had to be postponed until spring due to COVID-19. Keep your eye on that GreenStep sign: we’re moving up the third step and looking forward toward steps four and five.
We all win. We’re all stakeholders here: taxpayers, businesses, conservationists, non-profits, and our government. Our children and grandchildren will thank us as well.
Leslie Frick is a member of Sustainable Stillwater MN. Contact us at email@example.com