Parks: Cultivating Resilient Communities

Wednesday, January 24 | 3:05 - 4:20p.m.

Session Description:
Community trees, parks and green spaces provide tremendous benefits. Negative impacts on these public assets have consequences for the safety, health and welfare of communities. This presentation will outline strategies that parks professionals can use to resist, withstand and recover from storms and other landscape-scale threats. It will also explore how community-wide stewardship of parks and natural resources can help promote a broader sense of environmental, economic and social resilience. Topics discussed will include:
1. Connections between natural resource stewardship and community health and welfare
2. Management strategies to improve resilience of community trees, parks and
natural areas
3.Contributions of citizens, volunteers, non-profits and other

Need for Session: 
In addition to recreational amenity, public parks provide critical ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air pollution abatement, shading and cooling, noise attenuation, wildlife habitat, and beautification. Research from the University of Washington also shows that access to "nearby nature" in cities can have remarkably positive impacts on human health and well-being. It is in everyone's best interest that parks be appropriately managed for the continued delivery of these multiple benefits, while minimizing risks that are inherent to trees and other vegetation found in parks. And yet, many parks departments lack the expertise that is needed to fully understand and properly manage the natural resource components of public parks. This presentation will address the importance of managing parks and natural resources for resiliency to landscape-scale threats such as storms, floods, wildfires, and the consequences of a changing climate.

Ben Thompson, Urban Forestry Specialist

Ben Thompson is the Urban Forestry Specialist for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ Urban & Community Forestry Program. He holds a Master's of Science degree in Forest Resources and Conservation from the University of Florida where he studied the impacts of hurricanes on urban forests of the Southeastern U.S. Ben is an ISA Certified Arborist and former City Arborist for the City of Falls Church, Virginia, where he was responsible for the care and management of vegetation on public property. Currently Ben lives in Olympia where he and his family enjoy frequent access to the city's many parks and recreational trails.