By Doreen Leggett
Orleans Walkway Benefits More Than Pedestrians
ORLEANS, MA —
Architect Joy Cuming said sustainable development stems from the individual then travels on to the community to towns and eventually ripples out to the world. But it’s been stymied for decades.
“We can not continue to use the same models and patterns of growth,” she said.
But a small crowd gathered at the Old Firehouse last Thursday, backed by a group more than a hundred members, highlighted how Orleans, in some respects, has gotten past the individuals and reached community: The Orleans Community Partnership.
The evidence may not be scintillating – pervious concrete doesn’t generate a ton of excitement – but the new walkway installed by the partnership, which links Cove Road to Main Street, is a step in the right direction when it comes to protecting, and sustaining, water resources.
And those resources were front and center at a forum “Sustainability and Low Impact Development” sponsored by the partnership last month and featuring Cuming, as well as Gordon Peabody, of Safe Harbor – an Outer Cape Company that focuses on solving environmental problems by using the environment, and Seth Wilkinson, President of Wilkinson Ecological Design.
The walkway, which ends right by the Old Firehouse, is designed to allow the rainwater to trickle and end up back in the groundwater, as opposed to sluicing off traditional pavement and funneling down to Town Cove. “Lost water is money,” said Peabody.
More and more folks on Cape understand the value of water and installing rain gardens on their property, said Wilkinson. A rain garden is a planted depression that allows rainwater running off from impervious areas, such as roofs, driveways, walkways, parking lots, and (non-natural) lawn areas, the opportunity to be absorbed slowly. That way the storm water is treated – plants can take out nutrients and sunshine will break up volatile organic compounds – which are in gasoline.
Although the idea of rain gardens is catching on, and can even be used on the streets of Orleans, other important concepts aren’t. Peabody pointed out that state and local regulations are lagging behind retrofitting bathrooms. He wanted to use grey water to flush his toilet and he was told “No” what if someone drank out of it. “We don’t need to use drinking water for toilets,” he said.
Although rain gardens are more easily permitted, the regulations haven’t matured enough to where they are encouraged by businesses, said Wilkinson. “It is not in the [town’s] site plan review process necessarily that is something that could be done very easily. I think there are a lot of missed opportunities,” Wilkinson said.
Cuming said some communities, such as Laconia, N.H., are taking sustainability to a new level and attacking everything together – public outreach, smart growth developments, rewriting codes to rework zoning, and other initiatives.
Andrea Reed, a member of the community partnership and also a planning board member, said people have to get away from just assuming an idea won’t work. Those assumptions need to be challenged, she said.
And, said Jim Junkins who owns Friends’ Marketplace, said the town needs an action plan. “A serious action plan,” agreed Cuming.
“Let’s become our own case study,” added Steve Bornemeier, president of the partnership’s board.
The work the community partnership has done is already rippling out. The town has recently approved a project downtown, at the town parking lot across from the bike trail near Hot Chocolate Sparrow, that uses pervious concrete: The project was championed by Selectmen Chairman Jon Fuller.