Sustainability initiatives go back to the very origins of the Fox Valley Park District, which was created in 1947 to "protect and preserve scenic vistas along the Fox River," among many other aspirations.
Sixty-seven years later, the FVPD is as earnest as ever in leading the way and carrying out sustainable practices in virtually all of its day-to-day operations.
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Sustainability is easy to define. Everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to permit fulfillment of the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.
It is self-preservation with an eye on the horizon. Maintaining and sustaining are essential to making sure that we have -- and will continue to have -- the water, materials and resources to protect human health and our environment.
The FVPD owns and manages more than 2,500 acres of parkland and natural areas -- including 22 miles of Fox River shoreline and 27 lakes. As stewards of public treasure, the park district is ever-mindful of the environmental impact it has on the communities it serves -- Aurora, North Aurora and Montgomery.
Supporting development and conservation strategies is a top priority, for those practices help protect our natural environment and make our communities more attractive, economically stronger, and more socially diverse.
The Cole Center, FVPD headquarters, is a highly visible representation of the district's commitment, with more than 125 sustainable features, such as a permeable paver parking lot that filters rain water and runoff to keep impurities from draining into (and polluting) the Fox River.
Another feature is the Rainwater X-Change system that funnels rain water to an underground tank to be used for vehicle washing.
Similar clean-water methods are utilized everywhere throughout the district. New and renovated park designs nearly always include bio swales and rain gardens that absorb and filter stormwater. Bio swales direct the water and runoff to rain gardens, which feature hardy plants that require little watering.
In a perfect world, trees would live forever. When certain trees do need to be cut down, the park district turns every one of them into mulch, converting the trunks and branches into beneficial wood chips for redistribution.
Removal of an old or damaged tree is another opportunity to plant new trees as part of the district's urban reforestation plan.
The park district also limits its use of fertilizer in favor of nature's food. Using specialized mulching mowers, tree leaves and other organic plant materials are finely ground, which returns nutrients to the soil and results in healthy, green turf -- naturally.
And there's very little chemical use when it comes to battling snow. The district uses beet juice to keep surfaces free of snow and ice, and has recently begun testing an environmentally friendly, anti-icing agent that is noncorrosive and 100 percent natural.
Energy conservation at all District facilities is paramount. Indoor climate control and practices like "daylight harvesting" keep consumption in check.
In addition, the park district's "Green Team" -- environmentally minded staff members from every department -- helps advocate and advise on policy to promote innovative green practices.
Piloting sustainability is a team effort. We all play a leadership role, for every contribution makes a difference, and those mentioned above are but a few examples. While the park district's list of accomplishments is long and growing, it's all about furthering future goals -- or, as we like to say, sustaining.
Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org