Module 11: Regional Planning for Resilient Communities

Learning Objectives

  • Gain an understanding of the significance of regional planning for GI.

Cities that integrate GI into urban planning on many levels may reap the greatest benefits from GI systems. Creating more resilient cities requires an approach to GI that transcends the application of individual systems and focuses on how large-scale green spaces can be integrated into a city’s infrastructure and its goals for regional planning; from citizen engagement to district planning and development applications. Planning for green infrastructure on a regional level allows for green infrastructure systems that offer significantly more services than a roadside bioretention system. With effective city planning, storm sewers and cisterns can be replaced with riparian corridors and floodable landscapes, offering improved flood protection, better water quality, and expanded habitat alongside recreational pathways, trails, and parks. Large-scale GI represents a valuable public allocation of multi-purpose and easily re-purposable land.

Conventional stormwater infrastructure was designed to be out of sight and out of mind; occupying as little visual space as possible, while minimizing the potential for damage. GI on the other hand is largely visible and, unless otherwise posted, accessible to the public such as alongside a city street, urban waterways, urban green space, etc. GI provides the opportunity for neighbourhoods to work together to design, employ and maintain the GI while also encouraging community ownership of GI and thus often mitigating for the potential of vandalism. GI also provides a chance for cities in settler-colonial nations to learn from and support First Nations peoples, whose knowledge of plants and ecosystem maintenance has historically been disregarded. In Vancouver, Canada, the Cities Green Infrastructure Implementation division is working with local First Nations to identify goals for GI performance, design, and implementation.

Planning for GI requires assessments of the value of the natural assets being planned for. The most site-suitable and affordable GI systems are the ones that already exist: urban waterways, boundary forests and urban tree stands, community green spaces, parks and recreation areas, and unmodified coastline. Preserving these systems often requires a comparison of their true value (including water treatment, ecosystem services, public health, climate resilience, etc.) with the cost of providing these benefits with conventional infrastructure.

Regional planning provides the potential for the employment of GI at the ‘watershed’ level (keeping in mind that regional government jurisdictional boundaries do not always follow watershed boundaries) providing municipalities with the ability to coordinate with other regional governments to make larger, interconnected systems that acknowledge the reality that our political boundaries rarely match hydrologic or ecological ones. The Ontario Conservation Authorities, which are organized by watershed as opposed to regional districts, are an example of the importance of working within natural, as opposed to political, boundaries. Municipalities within the same watershed or habitat can achieve similar ends by creating dedicated working groups to coordinate and influence provincial legislation and regulations to enable and support GI planning to create wildlife and riparian corridors on geographically relevant scales and then strategically scale down to the community level. Regional planning for resilient communities can be amplified with support from federal and provincial governments. The multi-functionality of GI makes it likely that that some portion of its intended benefits is also a priority for a larger regional or federal governing body increasing interest in supporting communities and regional governments across Canada with the strategic employment of GI.


Learning Activities

Discussion Question

  • What advantages can arise from regional planning efforts that cannot be achieved through municipal planning?



Readings & Resources



Additional Resources and Citations

  • Planning the Pacific Northwest. Edited by Jill Sterret, Connie Ozawa, Dennis Ryan, Ethan Seltzer, and Jan Whittington. American Planning Association/Planners Press.


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Green Infrastructure in Urban Centres: Policy, Design and Practice by Joanna Ashworth and Nick Mead-Fox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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