July 24, 2008
How Green is Redlands, and How Green Should It Be?
By MIRANDA C.R. WHITE
REDLANDS - Redlands, once green with orange groves, is working to stay green, developing an Emerald Necklace of open space around the city.
The community is also working to keep the water supply clean, improve the air quality and build "environmentally friendly" buildings.
Open space and citrus
Preserving open space has always been part of the character of Redlands, said Redlands Mayor Jon Harrison.
"When people think of Redlands, they think of these (open spaces), whether it's citrus or natural open space areas, as being part of what is the experience of living and working in Redlands, as having that access to open space," he said.
Preserving open space also helps business in Redlands.
"That's important as we try to attract green business, green industry and so forth. For example, ESRI is trying to recruit people to show potential employees to those types of open space amenities nearby so that they can access them," said Harrison, who works at ESRI.
There have been some changes in open space projects in Redlands in the past few decades.
Harrison said the Emerald Necklace effort started in the late 1980s when Councilwoman Barbara Wormser and then-Mayor Carole Beswick commissioned an open space study.
"Their study then led to the issuing of the Measure O bond, which was used as an initial open space acquisition. That was the first organized effort," Harrison said.
The Measure O funds were exhausted in 2000, Harrison said, and the city has used other funding for acquiring open space since then.
"Most recently we used some of our development funds to acquire some property along the Santa Ana River bluff so we can complete what was going to be the upper portion of Centennial Park," Harrison said.
Other projects the city has worked on since then are acquiring groves and other properties.
Harrison has plans for the future, some for the next year and a half.
"Our top priority is how are we going to conserve enough agricultural citrus activity that can remain a viable part of our local agriculture," Harrison said.
"We've got some great projects under way that I think in the next four or five years will be completed."
One of those is the Santa Ana River trail, funded through Proposition 84.
"The design and environmental work on that trail will hopefully be done by the end of 2009," Harrison said.
Sherli Leonard, executive director of Redlands Conservancy, has many visions for the Emerald Necklace project.
"The Emerald Necklace is a concept of the green belt around the entire city of Redlands like a necklace, which would be a buffer zone between the city and other communities and would also be an open space area whether it's natural open space or agricultural open space or developed parks," Leonard said.
The Conservancy, a group dedicated to protecting Redlands' natural and built environment, sees many pieces of Redlands forming the necklace.
"This would provide a buffer zone between Redlands and the other communities so that you don't have one continuous development," Leonard said. "We don't envision it as being a solid band of open space or agricultural land."
The open space of the Emerald Necklace will form a kind of a string, but an oddly shaped one, a smooth flow to important places in the city.
"We envision it as being a trail or a road or a series of trails or roads that connect several what we call 'gems' that surround the city," Leonard said. "There are open places and historical sites all around the city, even on the west side."
The Conservancy is pushing to not just to make Redlands beautiful but also to preserve it.
"It would be used partly as a way to protect the wildlife and the environment in general, and partly as a way to promote Redlands," Leonard said.
She said the Emerald Necklace will help to maintain Redlands' high quality of life and high property values.
Redlands is pushing forward with plans for the Emerald Necklace, an idea that dates back more than 20 years, Leonard said.
"The city actually had a report done for them 21 years ago called the Emerald Necklace report, and then they used that report as a basis for their open space element and the land use element of the general plan written in 1994-'95," Leonard said.
Some of those plans won't be realized, because of lost time.
"They did not do most of what the report said," Leonard said. "Probably we have lost since that time at least half of the open space, whether it's agricultural or natural, that needed to be protected."
Open space is important for community health, according to Leonard.
"The Emerald Necklace concept understands that having a conserved land, whether it's agricultural or natural, is a significant component in the health of a community, both physical and mental health," Leonard said.
Open spaces are crucial in the Conservancy's plan to educate people on living with nature.
"We see this as an opportunity through trails and parks, not necessarily developed parks, but even natural parks and open land," Leonard said.
"We see this as an opportunity to promote the health of the community and also to educate them about the synergism between the wildlife, habitats and human beings and how we all need each other to exist happily.
"In the mind of the Redlands Conservancy, the conservation of open spaces and agricultural land is a key part of maintaining a sustainable community," Leonard said.
Another way of keeping Redlands green involves "green" buildings such as the ones on the ESRI campus and the Lewis building at the University of Redlands.
Monty Hempel, director of UR's Center for Environmental Studies, helped develop the Lewis building.
"When I came to Redlands in 1999 we were in Duke Hall and it was a small area for a program we were trying to build," Hempel said.
"The president of the university said that he would be willing to consider a new structure for the program that I was hired to build. We basically agreed that it should be a green building. It should be a 21st-century building," Hempel said.
They also went to a conference to see what green buildings might look like in the future.
"(The designer) came back with a plan to do an earth-sheltered building," Hempel said. "So we use the earth to help cool and heat in the winter the interior space, and we use skylights and the interior courtyard for maximizing sunlight into the building."
Hempel said they wanted a building that blurred the differences between indoors and outdoors, used much less energy and water and as much daylight as possible.
"And some solar facilities were feasible," Hempel said.
The building is energy- and cost-efficient and has multiple uses.
"We wanted a building that would house the offices, the classrooms, and some kind of courtyard and outdoor classroom space, which became the amphitheater," Hempel said.
The Lewis building also promotes health and safety.
"We have about 40 to 50 percent less energy use per square foot than a standard new building would have," Hempel said. "We have recycled carpeting. Indoor air quality is very good because we don't have glues or paints that have toxic materials and high qualities.
"A lot of the building is just designed to demonstrate what a more sustainable society would look like," Hempel said.
Even though San Bernardino County air quality is not the best, efforts are being made to keep Redlands' water clear and clean, according to Chris Diggs of the city's Municipal Utilities Department.
"We treat all of the water that we need, whether it's simple chlorination or whether it's surface water treatment or of that nature," Diggs said.
The utilities department takes many steps toward clean water.
"One step at a time they inspect job sites, trucking sites, and things of that nature to insure that requirements are filled," Diggs said. "Inspectors are required to put together a prevention plan and it identifies construction sites and what they're going to do to ensure that debris doesn't end up in the river. So we monitor and ensure that those are being done on a regular basis.
"We have the resources necessary to meet consumer demand," Diggs said.
E-mail Staff Writer Miranda C.R. White at [email protected]
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