Battle Creek

New plan sets goals for City of Battle Creek to provide service to the public in sustainable ways

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.

Setting an example often starts at the top and the City of Battle Creek is no exception.

During a February City Commission meeting, commissioners approved an Environmental Sustainability Plan, developed by the city’s Sustainable BC Committee, that was five years in the making.

City Planner Eric Feldt says this is the first plan of its kind that the city has made.

“So, it’s certainly unique,” he says. “It’s an internal plan that touches on only the city’s infrastructure, processes and city vehicles, including city buses and staff-associated vehicles. It doesn’t touch on private property use.

“This is a stepping stone approach towards looking into a communitywide sustainable plan. The purpose is to advance a future communitywide sustainability plan and address the city’s Master Plan."

The plan consists of themes and, within those themes, goals to be met by following short-term (by 2020), medium-term (by 2025), and long-term (beyond 2030) objectives. The themes are energy, water, transportation, waste, government management practices, land use, and public outreach/education. Each theme has city staff assigned to help reach the listed goals.

Feldt says a website will be created for residents so that they can learn about planning efforts being undertaken because of the project. Among the more visible changes people may see are a new stormwater infrastructure that will capture stormwater as it runs off roads and sidewalks and contain harmful toxins such as road salt in a low-lying area with vegetation that will collect it.

“Using that type of infrastructure is better for the environment than having it go right into the gutter,” Feldt says.

Residents also may see more bicycle-friendly signage that will direct them to existing or additional routes that are friendly to bicyclists and buses or city vehicles powered by hybrid fuels instead of diesel.

Each theme will be visible to the public or policy-driven for internal use. So, for example, city staff may be directed to put their recycling or trash in a centralized location as opposed to having a custodian come through every work station.

The plan recognizes the city’s responsibility to protect the quality of air, water, land, and all natural resources, and to also become more sustainable in its daily operations, Feldt says.

“This is exciting stuff,” said Andy Helmboldt, chair of the Sustainable BC Committee. “Never before has the City of Battle Creek crafted such a comprehensive, cross-departmental approach to providing service to the public in ways that are sustainable and protect our environment for future generations. Energy, water, transportation, waste, land use, and our own management practices are all areas that come together within this plan.

“Importantly, there is also a component of public outreach and education, where the City of Battle Creek strives to become a community-wide leader in sustainability. Thanks to all the committee members for their hard work and determination, and special thanks to Tiffany Welsh, whose passion, commitment, and expertise have sustained us all.”

Welsh, the city’s former environmental and storm service manager, last fall lost her battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

The plan is available on the city’s website here. Scroll to the cover image of the plan, and click to see the entire document. The direct link to the plan is here.

Read more articles by Jane Simons.

Jane Simons is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience and also is the owner of In So Many Words based in Battle Creek. She is the Project Editor for On the Ground Battle Creek.