COLLEGE PARK – Five Prince George’s County municipalities recently became certified with Sustainable Maryland, a program created by the University of Maryland and the Maryland Municipal League to encourage local communities to be more environmentally friendly. Berwyn Heights, Cheverly, Greenbelt, Riverdale Park and University Park were among 13 Maryland municipalities recognized at the Sustainable Maryland […]
COLLEGE PARK – Five Prince George’s County municipalities recently became certified with Sustainable Maryland, a program created by the University of Maryland and the Maryland Municipal League to encourage local communities to be more environmentally friendly.
Berwyn Heights, Cheverly, Greenbelt, Riverdale Park and University Park were among 13 Maryland municipalities recognized at the Sustainable Maryland Awards Ceremony on Oct. 13. Communities have to complete various environmental projects to become certified. Each project is assigned a point value ranging from five to 55 and the municipality must achieve a total of 150 points. All of the Prince George’s jurisdictions achieved well above the 150 mark this year, with Greenbelt topping the county list with 600 points.
The towns had to complete two mandatory actions: establishing a “green team” – a community organizations of officials, staff, and residents who collaborate on projects, educate residents, and advise the municipality on sustainability – and creating a green team action plan. They also received points for completing two out of eight priority actions, which included creating community gardens and creating a watershed plan.
Other actions the towns and cities could take to attain points were to establish a local farmers market, join the Maryland Green Registry, and develop a water conservation outreach plan, according to Sustainable Maryland’s website.
“Now more than ever, it is critical for local leaders and advocates to take charge of moving their communities toward becoming healthier and more sustainable,” said Dan Nees, director of the Environmental Finance Center.
Mike Hunninghake, the program manager for Sustainable Maryland, agreed local leadership is critical for addressing climate change.
“We’ve seen at the higher levels of government elected officials not hold up their end of the responsibility to their residents to address issues of climate change and resilient communities, so now more than ever it is up to local officials to make sure their communities are strong and adaptive in the face of these challenges,” Hunninghake said.
Berwyn Heights received 230 points through initiatives such as its participation in MD Green Schools, its community garden program, and being recognized as a Tree City USA Community. The town also created bike trails between local neighborhoods, tourist stops and public transportation centers.
“The Town of Berwyn Heights is honored to receive the Sustainable Maryland Certified Award, and be recognized for our commitment in making sustainable choices,” Mayor Cheryl Jewitt said.
Cheverly received 245 points through projects such as having a spring transplant sale providing incentives for watershed stewardship on private lands. The town also amended a previous ordinance to allow bees to be kept on municipal and residential property and held an event to encourage the use of rain barrels to help residents apply for the county’s rain check rebate program.
“For us, (the certification) tells us we’re on the right path for a sustainable town,” said Sheila Salo, a resident on the Cheverly Green Infrastructure Committee. “And this involves strictly environmental activities as well as those things that are more hardscape. We’re working on all of those levels for sustainability and resiliency.”
Greenbelt established a Community Supported Agriculture program, developed a climate action plan, and participated in the Let’s Move campaign. The city’s department of public works also began a food scraps composting program and taught residents about it at numerous community events. With 600 points, Greenbelt had the second highest number of points out of the 13 municipalities certified this year.
“By getting this certification, we are being acknowledged for everything we do for sustainability, from reducing our consumption and our greenhouse gases to protecting our natural resources,” said Luisa Robles, Greenbelt’s sustainability coordinator. “It also acknowledges the things we’ve been doing all along” through Greenbelt’s sustainability framework.
Riverdale Park achieved 310 points through projects such as providing voluntary opportunities for citizen engagement in watershed stewardship and participating in the department of housing and community development’s Sustainable Communities Program. Furthermore, the Riverdale Park Station will be the first LEED-ND (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design -Neighborhood Development) project completed in the county.
“Our re-certification is the result of the hard work and dedication of the Riverdale Park Sustainability Committee, residents, elected officials and staff,” Mayor Alan Thompson said. “Sustainability is part of the fabric of our town.”
University Park received 235 points for actions such as participating in Sustainable Maryland Certified green team training and instituting a pet waste program. The town also funds a Shade Tree Reimbursement program for residents and received the People Loving and Nurturing Trees award in 2016.
“The Town of University Park is committed to sustainability and protecting the environment,” Mayor Len Carey said. “Jim Henson created the Muppets here in town and we know, as Kermit says, ‘it’s not easy being green.’”
Seventy of Maryland’s 157 municipalities are registered with Sustainable Maryland, which means the officials have passed a resolution creating a green team and saying they will pursue certification. Thirty-nine of those 70 are certified.
All five of these Prince George’s towns and cities were certified with Sustainable Maryland in 2014, and reapplied after their three-year certification expired.
More than 95 percent of municipalities that have been previously certified later become re-certified, Hunninghake said.