According to the Richmond 300: A Guide For Growth Insights Report, more land surface in Richmond is paved over than currently used for public park spaces.
Meanwhile, years of sprawling suburban development and lack of safe, connected multi-use pathways has made it seemingly necessary for families to use cars to get into and around the city. In addition, urban planning decisions have overburdened inner-city neighborhoods with fewer trees, proximity to traffic and outdated stormwater infrastructure.
As climate change continues to make extreme heat and rainfall events more common and more intense, land-use decisions can magnify those events, particularly in neighborhoods with fewer green spaces. The blogs below provide more information about how land use and climate change are related and what impacts our city is feeling today.
The Science Museum received a grant from the Virginia Academy of Science to work with multiple partners to measure the city’s temperature in various places all at once during a heat wave. The goal was to identify the strength of Richmond’s “urban heat island effect.”
A Science Museum study linked higher land surface temperatures to formerly redlined areas in 108 US cities. Redlined areas have fewer trees than their non-redlined neighbors, allowing more of the Sun’s energy to get soaked up and amplified by human-built surfaces.
Two papers published by the University of Richmond in collaboration with the Science Museum explore the relationships between temperature, air quality, socio-demographic factors and historical planning decisions for the City of Richmond.
Parks and green spaces—through tree canopy shade, rainfall-absorbent surfaces and air-cleaning vegetation—are an asset to the city’s climate resilience goals, as they provide some of the most natural landscapes that remain within the city’s bounds.
At the individual level, there are many options for families to help build community resilience to climate change in their own backyard. Installing rain barrels and planting native trees and shrubs to replace your lawn are two ways to start treating your yard like a climate action laboratory.
For renters and those without the financial means to improve their landscaping, there are opportunities to volunteer with one of the many local organizations working to expand and improve green spaces in the Richmond community. Check out the HandsOn Greater Richmond volunteer portal or keep up with the events calendar on Southside ReLeaf's website to find an event near you.
Finally, we can all look for ways to limit and reduce the amount of driving we do as a way to limit heat-trapping gas emissions that are the root cause of climate change. We can do this through supporting compact and dense housing throughout the city and expanding the reliability, frequency, and connectivity of public transportation options like GRTC.
On the Science Museum's campus, we have begun construction on Phase 1 of a project that will reclaim two acres of asphalt surface parking and reestablish the front acreage of historic Broad Street Station as a new 6-acre public green space. The project aligns with the city’s Richmond 300 development plan, which prioritizes green infrastructure for Greater Scott’s Addition, one of the fastest growing, mixed-use neighborhoods in the city with one of the lowest levels of urban tree cover.
The Green will serve as both a welcoming park and a living classroom that will implement natural solutions to address the impacts of climate change in an urban setting.
The Green will be accessible by public transportation, sitting directly on the Pulse BRT line that travels Broad Street. Until The Green is complete, you can visit other park space using public transportation within the city. Take a look at the options below provided by GRTC.
Connect to the most cutting-edge understanding of how cities are using green spaces like parks to advance climate justice and resilience using these links: