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Cottonwood Heights Journal

City staff present top 10 projects for sustainability

Jan 31, 2023 02:35PM ● By Cassie Goff

The Old Mill bike path encourages active transportation within the city. (Photo of Cottonwood Heights Bicycle and Trails Master Plan)

As the Cottonwood Heights City Council prepares to enter their annual budget retreat, city staff have been submitting their monetary allocation requests for various city projects. On Jan. 3, Senior Planner Samantha DeSeelhorst and Sustainability Analyst Ian Harris presented their top 10 potential projects and plans related to sustainability within the city. 

DeSeelhorst and Harris would like to see the city do more to protect and enhance the tree canopy. They suggested projects such as facilitating a tree planting initiative, creating a tree inventory, and increasing community outreach related to tree maintenance.  

“Tree canopies are a really valuable tool in arid and semi-arid climates. They provide shade, mitigate urban heat island effect, and add a lot of placemaking, beauty, and sense of place to our community,” DeSeelhorst said. 

Cottonwood Heights could also consider a tree bag sponsorship where bags are placed around the trunks of trees to help target water to ensure trees are receiving the ample support they need. 

“Growing up in Southern California, my city actually had a tree canopy program where they would provide a free tree to every resident each year,” said Councilmember Shawn Newell. “It allowed them to control what type of foliage was going into the tree strips. In Utah, I could see us having drought-tolerant trees.” 

City staff would like the city council to consider enhancing sustainable landscaping as a priority. Waterwise and pollinator-friendly landscaping could be implemented in public-owned spaces, strips and parks. Education and outreach about different landscaping types could be pushed to city residents. City codes and ordinances could be drafted to encourage sustainable landscapes within residential communities and commercial projects. 

“Alternative landscapes can be beautiful and easy to implement. Green lawns are great as active spaces, but they are inefficient and really not pollinator friendly,” DeSeelhorst said. 

Many Utah legislators and city leaders have voiced concern over water conservation. Cottonwood Heights City staff believe they can do more to enhance progress on such initiatives by promoting responsible water use with city partners. Retrofitting city grounds with waterwise options to lead by example was also suggested. 

“We are continuing to see precipitation declining and temperatures rising in Utah. Water conservation is a crucial response to that,” DeSeelhorst said. 

Cottonwood Heights may sponsor the rain barrel program again this year. Residents can sign up to receive a rain barrel where they can collect rain from the spring storms to use in their gardens. 

The fourth potential project suggested was to support electric vehicle (EV) adoption throughout the city. The city council could consider exploring options for requiring EV chargers based on square footage for new developments. Development incentives could also be promoted as there are many opportunities for EV grants within the private sector. 

“We continue to see auto markets diversifying beyond internal combustion engines so the city can help plan for the future by streamlining EV infrastructure and adoption,” DeSeelhorst said.

Active transportation continues to be strongly encouraged as it is a multifaceted tool to help establish sense of place within a community. It was suggested that walkability could be supplemented by codifying minimum pedestrian crossing intervals on city streets. Additional bike parking could be constructed within city-owned spaces as well. 

“There is a clear desire from residents for more transportation options with active transportation playing a role with our outdoor-oriented community,” DeSeelhorst said.

The sixth potential project suggested was to boost sustainability outreach for residents. The city could host events to showcase various sustainability programs, provide detailed information on how to dispose of difficult to recycle materials, and create and distribute videos covering how to incorporate sustainability within everyday life. 

“Folks within the city are supportive of sustainability but are unsure of how to get involved,” DeSeelhorst said.

Harris and DeSeelhorst suggested implementing sustainable food initiatives during 2023. They offered hosting a nonperishable food drive at city hall, sponsoring community gardens, exploring food pantry offerings, and hosting webinars on composting and food waste. 

“We have a lot of food waste worldwide and a lot of food insecurity for people struggling to find food in their community at the same time,” DeSeelhorst said.

Cottonwood Heights plans to continue their efforts to reduce fuel waste from vehicles. Requiring anti-idling signage in new developments and implementing decal recognition for businesses already working to reduce idling is of consideration. 

Lastly, city staff suggested strengthening sustainable waste management as a potential project for this upcoming budget year. Removing single-use plastics when possible is essential for this goal. The city could also sponsor a highway cleaning initiative to help tackle some of the litter along the busier streets. 

“Sustainability efforts made at the local level can have a big impact and we are grateful to collaborate with the city council on this work,” DeSeelhorst said.

Community and Economic Development staff will continue to work on the sustainability projects from last year. They are most excited to continue partnering with the Parks, Trails, and Open Space Committee to create a donation program to fund amenities within city parks and add additional plants to the Pollinator Garden within Mountview Park.