There’s an Octopus in the Parking Garage?! ‘Futureproof’ Your Parks for Resiliency to Climate Change

With the election upon us, one topic that is often discussed is climate change and its dramatic effects on communities all over the world. Increased flooding, drought, expanding ranges of non-native invasive species, access to clean water, and changes in the growing season are just a few impacts that show that this isn't just a coastal problem. Resiliency is another term often used, but what is resiliency and why should you be thinking about it when developing/redeveloping parks? Making decisions regarding the location of parkland, the use of those lands, the placement of infrastructure, and overall park design will be critical in the coming decades. This discussion will give you a good idea of how climate change will be affecting parks and recreation departments, what jurisdictions around the country are doing to be more resilient, and how you describe these changes and their effects to elected officials and the public.

Learning Objectives
Following this session, learners will be able to:

  1. Understand how climate change is affecting communities and parklands.
  2. Identify practical steps to "futureproof" parks for long-term sustainability, recreational use, natural resource protection, and climate change mitigation.
  3. Discuss how parklands assist municipalities with resilience.

NRPA Education online learning content is accessible for 180 days from the date of your registration. The learning content is available for registration for one year from the date of origination.

Chris Matthews

Division Director

Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation

Chris Matthews is the division director for nature preserves and natural resources for Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation in North Carolina. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology and a Master of Science degree in applied ecology and conservation biology. His professional interests include habitat restoration, fisheries, stream restoration and protected species management. Matthews speaks regularly at NRPA Annual Conferences and instructed at the NRPA Green School.

Jai Cole

Natural Resources Manager

Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery Parks

Jai Cole has 15 years of experience in Park and Recreation and is currently the Natural Resources Manager for M-NCPPC, Montgomery County Department of Parks. Cole supervises Natural Resources staff in Montgomery Parks who are tasked to manages the stewardship of 457 miles of streams, 26,000 acres of forest and more than 500 lakes, ponds and stormwater management facilities and devices in the 38,000 acre 5 time NRPA Gold Medal Award winning park system. Cole specializes in biological monitoring of streams, stream restoration, and the environmental review of projects being designed and built both internally and by external agencies on parkland.

Cole reviews plans from concept through final design to ensure that environmental impacts are limited, the design is beneficial, the goals are feasible, and construction access routes and planned construction practices are minimal. I assist project managers in designing and permitting projects to comply with Federal, State, and County environmental and forest conservation laws, policies and plans. Cole serves as the primary point of contact for question, concern, and issues from other agencies, residents, politicians and environmental advocacy groups related to environmental issues. Her section also manages both the Department's Phase II NPDES permit and its NPDES Industrial Permit as well as provides GIS support to both the Park Planning and Stewardship Division and the Department as a whole.

Cole has taught a Freshwater Ecosystems course in the USDA Graduate School for 4 years, taught 'Fundamental Ecological Principles' for the Maryland Master Naturalist program 3 times, has presented to Montgomery County watershed groups on various topics involving Natural Resource Management and stream health and I have presented over 30 times to the Montgomery County Planning Board.

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