Using nature-based solutions to help people and nature thrive together.
This article was updated on December 4, 2020.
The Nature Conservancy has established a global cities program and a network of 24 urban conservation programs in the U.S. with the goal of changing the relationship between cities and nature. We know using natural solutions to address many of the challenges facing urban areas can create more livable communities and a world where people and nature thrive together.
In Wilmington, our strategies include promoting nature-based solutions to address a wide variety of social and environmental challenges and demonstrating the efficacy of our projects through sound research and evaluation. We are also working to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards and engage residents in citizen science research to improve water quality and the health of urban forests. Finally, we are working with the city and community partners to develop policies that tackle the challenge of making Wilmington a more sustainable place to live.
The Nature Conservancy partnered with the City of Wilmington, the Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH), Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Land Bank and Creative District Wilmington to clean and improve a vacant lot in West Center City using best practices in public greening.
“This joint effort is a wonderful example of people with a common objective coming together to help make Wilmington a cleaner, more attractive city, and also improve the quality of life for the residents of West Center City,” said Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki.
Work at the 5th and Madison Street lot began with DCH’s Branches to Chances trainees planting eight trees, generously donated by Mt. Cuba Center, and participants in the Challenge Program installed a wooden fence around the perimeter of the lot. The lot cleanup is the first of several greening projects scheduled for the West Center City area.
“Working with partners we hope to turn vacant lots into productive uses the community desires,” says Maria Dziembowska, TNC Delaware's Director of Urban Conservation.
Read more about our collaboration with DCH's Return-to-Work program which aims to enhance green space in the city while providing job training to residents.
South Wilmington Wetland Park
For several years, TNC has been supporting the City of Wilmington’s South Wilmington wetland restoration and park project. The $23.9 million South Wilmington Wetland Restoration and Conservation Project will help absorb excess water from major storms and high tides, which result in regular flooding of nearby roadways and, sometimes, the basements of homes in the neighborhood of Southbridge. Another result will be the creation of a community park with a multi-use trail that encourages outdoor recreation and connect historic Southbridge with neighborhoods and amenities to the west of the park.
Stream Stewards is a program designed to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in taking care of their waterways. Adult volunteers are invited to sign up for a series of training sessions and actively participate in monitoring the water quality of streams that flow through First State National Historical Park to Brandywine Creek. A curriculum is being developed for students and their families to become engaged in water quality monitoring near their schools and homes in Wilmington. Participants will learn about stewardship opportunities for improving the health of their watersheds, and contributing to conservation action in their communities.
The Brandywine-Christina watershed provides over 100 million gallons daily to 500,000 area residents. Yet most of its waterways are unsafe for recreation and water treatment is costly. The Revolving Water Fund will coordinate the financing and prioritizing of conservation projects in the watershed—often at a cost far lower than traditional efforts. That’s good news to any area resident who turns on their drinking water tap.
Looking Ahead: Planning a Greener, More Equitable Future
For decades, cities across the country have been experimenting with solutions to legacy problems faced by many urban communities in the United States—problems rooted in the nation’s history of racial discrimination in housing and urban planning.
Sharing experiences, lessons, science and best practices both locally and globally is what sets TNC apart. Now that TNC's conservation efforts in Wilmington and Philadelphia are being integrated into one program, TNC stands to have a more regional conservation impact, embedding both cities into the broader landscape of the lower Delaware River.
As the nation works to rebuild the global economy, the recovery process must include opportunities not only to resume our old way of life, but also to rebuild businesses, industries and jobs in ways that enhance equity, strengthen resilience and support a healthy environment. Economic recovery and environmental action must go hand-in-hand. Nature’s future is our future.