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Q&A: Dean Hay of The Greening of Detroit talks green infrastructure in the city

Dean Hay of Greening of Detroit

Dean Hay is director of Green Infrastructure at The Greening of Detroit, a group dedicated to increasing the amount of trees and green spaces as well as jobs and education opportunities throughout the city of Detroit. As such, we figured him to be an ideal person to talk to for our series on green infrastructure.

Model D: How big of a priority is green infrastructure to the Greening of Detroit?

Hay: Green infrastructure is very important to The Greening of Detroit. We envision GI as a community development tool that improves the quality of life for Detroit residents because of its cost-effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts. Plants and trees not only reduce flooding, but improve air quality and recreational access to nature. Green infrastructure provides the community with a variety of economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Model D: When did it become a priority?

Hay: The Greening of Detroit began implementing community tree plantings 28 years ago in response to the tremendous loss of trees to Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970s and 80s. Trees, as an urban forest network, are a highly effective GI treatment, especially when used with other GI treatments. The Greening of Detroit has always used a multi-faceted approach to green infrastructure.

Model D: What is Greening of Detroit's role in the strengthening of green infrastructure in Detroit?

Hay: The Greening of Detroit continues to be a strong advocate for community-based green infrastructure, as well as treatments that perform well without excessive implementation and maintenance costs. We believe the most effective GI treatments incorporate robust community engagement, education, and design. This helps to ensure that each treatment is understood and accepted by each neighborhood.

Model D: What green infrastructure projects does Greening of Detroit have planned in the future?

Hay: We are developing new prototypes with neighborhood leaders that focus on the establishment of natural ecosystems on vacant land. These prototypes will emphasize education, stormwater infiltration, natural resource career development opportunities, and place-making experiences.

Model D: What would you like to see happen with green infrastructure in Detroit?

Hay: GI treatments don't have to be complex and/or expensive. I would like communities to prioritize according to their needs, partner with organizations like The Greening, and develop GI methods that effectively work in their neighborhoods. This will mandate that more funding and access to vacant land be made available to those leaders and groups that want to bring natural ecosystem solutions and improved quality of life to their residents.

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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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