Richard J. Dolesh joined NRPA in 2002 and serves as the vice president for conservation and parks. He is responsible for development and implementation of national policy and initiatives related to conservation, stewardship and parks.
Rich worked 30 years in parks, outdoor recreation, and natural resource management at the local and state level in Maryland before coming to NRPA. His recent work includes leading NRPA’s Parks Build Community initiative, coordinating the Parks for Mitigation demonstration projects, and working with the National Wildlife Federation to connect 10 million kids to nature and the outdoors over the next three years. Rich represents NRPA on a number of coalitions and advisory groups including the Sustainable Urban Forestry Coalition, the steering committee for Natural Play and Learning Area guidelines, and the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES).
Green Infrastructure Creates More Sustainable Communities
Green infrastructure is an idea whose time has come…Many, many examples show how using a green approach is cheaper than using a traditional grey approach. But I think the bigger benefit to using green infrastructure stormwater management is that it has so many community benefits that, beyond the functionality of treating and filtering stormwater, build more sustainable communities.
Nationwide Need for Green Infra
…when we received our grant we intended to fund 3 to 5 demonstration projects across the country, and we thought we would get a couple dozen good proposals. We had over 1,000 expressions of interest and we’ve received 213 fully completed proposals…So it totally exceeded our expectations and shows there’s a tremendous need. Now we had an added component to ours: it wasn’t just green infrastructure in parks, but it was green infrastructure in parks with the intention of improving social equity and improving underserved communities in terms of environmental and social benefits.
Stormwater Management Is Increasingly Urgent
You look at some of the big events—extreme weather events—that have hit communities, urban communities in the U.S: Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, the blue-sky flooding that’s now occurring in Miami Beach and Norfolk and other coastal cities along the Atlantic seaboard. These are challenges that have to be met and they’re combined with sea-level rise, they’re combined with the challenge of making communities more resilient to extreme weather and sea-level rise, so stormwater is one of the greatest challenges facing urban communities in terms of infrastructure.
Empowerment Through Park Building
The idea of green infrastructure in parks is beautifully suited to the whole notion of community engagement and empowerment…Citizens often feel they don’t have a voice in how their government works and the projects that they commit to and how money is spent, but in the notion of putting green infrastructure stormwater management in parks, it opens up a whole new realm of how and what citizens can do to influence the outcomes of how stormwater is managed.
The NRPA: Mission and Work
The National Recreation and Park Association is a national non profit representing the interest of public parks and recreation across America. You have about 52,000 members, professional and citizen members, that broadly serve communities across America. One of the emerging interests that we have at NRPA is an effort to look at the role parks play in making communities more sustainable, resilient, and livable. Therefore we’ve had an increasing interest in the role of green infrastructure and how it can play in the notion of dealing with floodwater, extreme weather events, and a whole range of improving the quality of life and communities.