Town of Bel Air recognized for sustainability efforts

The Aegis

The Town of Bel Air was one of 13 Maryland municipalities honored at the Sustainable Maryland Awards Ceremony at the Maryland Municipal League's annual Fall Conference last month in Rockville.

Bel Air was one of nine Maryland municipalities to originally become Sustainable Maryland Certified in 2014, and the town successfully became re-certified again this year.

"Teamwork, passion, ingenuity and guidance from Sustainable Maryland enabled our Town to achieve Sustainable Maryland Certified," Mayor Susan Burdette said in a statement. "Under the direction of our planning and public works directors, we created community gardens for apartment dwellers and children to grow their own food, partnered with the county government to hold a reuse/recycling fair, cleared invasive species from our parks with a goat herd and initiated an energy efficiency asudit since our first certification in 2013."

"The projects unified town commissioners, staff, volunteers, residents, local church groups, Scouts, seniors and school children to decrease our carbon footprint and increase environmental protection for the future of Bel Air," Burdette said.

"The growing number of municipalities that share a vision for state-wide sustainability is a testament to Maryland's commitment to a resilient future," said Dan Nees, director of the Environmental Finance Center. "Now more than ever, it is critical for local leaders and advocates to take charge of moving their communities towards becoming healthier and more sustainable. It is exciting to see our Sustainable Maryland Certified program continue to empower elected officials and citizens with every new community we welcome."

"Sustainable Bel Air" is a sustainability action plan designed to guide the town sustainable priorities from 2013 to 2018. This plan contains a description of challenges and opportunities that exist in the Town, efforts to solicit public input from citizens, graphics showing survey results,

For detailed information about Bel Air's sustainability initiatives, contact Kevin Small, Planning Director at 410-638-4540 or ksmall@belairmd.org.

The state certification process is based on achievement of objectives achieved by the town in several categories:

Community Action

The Town of Bel Air has four Certified Green Schools: Bel Air High School, St. Margaret's, Southampton Middle School and Red Pump Elementary.

Two Certified Green Centers - Harford Glen Environmental Education Center and Eden Mill Nature Center - are in Harford County and all students who reside in the Town of Bel Air visit Eden Mill or Harford Glen several times as part of field trips associated with environmental education at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Green Team

In January 2012, the town established a committee to guide the efforts toward sustainability in the town.

The committee created the Sustainable Bel Air Plan. The committee is tasked with the mission to oversee implementation of the plan which includes SMC action tasks.

Local Food Consumption

The Bel Air Farmers Market has been in operation for over 40 years and for more than 28 years has been operating on the Mary Risteau parking lot near the intersection of Bond Street and Thomas Street.

The market is a "producers only" market with approximately 50 vendors participating in the 2017 season selling farm products, fruit, meats and flowers both potted and cut. Specialty vendors selling unique foods and consumables have recently augmented the market.

Cooking demonstrations using vendor products are held several times a month and local vineyards and breweries also provide samples and sales. The market has recently expanded its season to go from early April through December with hours on Saturday mornings from 7 a.m. through 11 a.m.

Local Food Production

In 2016, St. Matthews Lutheran Church opened the Town of Bel Air Community Garden at 1200 Churchville Road adjacent to the church parking lot. This accommodates a minimum of 70 (15-by-15-foot) garden plots. Much of the food is donated to the church kitchen or other local food pantries.

The Town of Bel Air and the Bel Air Downtown Alliance partnered on a Garden Mart that provided sales of transplants, nursery grown stock and accessories for sale to Bel Air residents.

Energy

Over the past several years, the town has worked with Facility Dude (a company that provides tracking services for municipal energy use) and Johnson Controls Inc. (a firm that provides analysis and management of water and energy resources) and entered a performance based contract to upgrade the facilities in the town.

Upgrades have been made for building and area lighting, water conservation, mechanical renovation, digital controls of services and solar energy provision.

Also undertaken was modernization of all street lights owned by the town, retrofitting of utility owned street lights and energy and water conservation education.

Health and wellness

In 2014, the town's Wellness Committee, consisting of various department heads and commissioners, first started a living well class.

By 2017, this effort has ballooned into several classes sponsored by UM – Upper Chesapeake Health, Healthy Harford and other local groups that cater to the elderly and those with chronic health issues.

Workplace Wellness

Since 2014, the Town of Bel Air government has offered various wellness programs to all employees, including the FitBit program; gym memberships with Planet Fitness; discount membership to local CSA farms; and updated vending machines offering a more healthy selection of drinks and snacks.

In 2009, the town a Wellness Committee that reviews healthy options for employees (quality vending machine options), organizes events and establishes incentives to promote exercise, nutritious eating and healthy behaviors by town staff.

Local Economies

In 2014, the Town partnered with Harford County to provide a means for local citizens to discard their unwanted items without sending them to the landfill or recycling the elements.

The town, county and Harford County public school system brought together various organizations such as the Lions Club, Bikes for the World, Orioles Advocates, Bel Air United Methodist Church and Chesapeake Shredding to collect items such as eye glasses, cell phones, books, bicycles, toys, textiles, shoes and sporting equipment along with document shredding.

Buy Local Campaign

The Town of Bel Air has established in partnership with the Bel Air Downtown Alliance a Local Business Directory found on the Alliance's websitebelairmaryland.org and linked from the town website.

This directory is updated on a monthly basis which coincides with the monthly member (merchant) meetings.

Green Purchasing

A Green Purchasing Policy was passed by the Bel Air Board ofTown Commissioners in 2014 to include procurement based upon the service or product effect on the environment.

Natural Resources

In 2016, the Town of Bel Air Public Works Department engaged in a mutual contract with a local farmer, wherein the town would pay the farmer to use goats to clear invasive species twice per year from Rockfield Park which has become overwhelmed by non-native species.

The goats are voracious in what they eat but can be controlled from consuming good native plants by spraying peppermint on the plant.

Results from the first year of application are encouraging with most areas not returning to their invasive growth to the previous degree. Once the goats have cleared an area, the Town follows with seedling plantings to begin the process of reclaiming the area for native material.

This year marks 25 years the Town of Bel Air has been a Tree City USA recipient.

As part of the requirements for Tree City USA the Town's Tree Committee submits an annual Tree Plan to the Board of Town Commissioners. The committee has began working on its recommendation to increase street tree plantings in residential communities through a new Residential Street Tree planting program.

Pet Waste

The Town of Bel Air Planning Department purchased a pet waste station in 2014 placed it in a Rockfield Park.

Plans are to place an additional station in a different part of the park.

Watershed Stewardship

The town created a sustainable initiatives program in 2015 which offers rebates to property owners and residents who wish to protect the environment and the various watersheds that the town occupies.

This program includes an approximate 30 percent rebate for purchase of rain barrels, compost bins and recycling containers.

Planning & Land Use

Since 2012, Bel Air has been part of the Sustainable Community program, either designated as Community Legacy or a Sustainable Community.

Several projects were completed in 2016 as a result — in part — of this designation, including renovation of the Reckord Armory, construction of a pocket park adjacent to the Armory and implementation of a business incubator program in space associated with the Armory known as the Armory Marketplace.

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