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City of Laurel seeks residents’ input on green plan to improve environmental quality

The city of Laurel wants to ramp up its green plan and it needs residents’ input, staff say.

“This is your plan. What would you like to put in it?” said Michelle Blair, recycling coordinator for the city’s Department of Public Works. “What is your focus?”

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A green plan is intended to improve environmental quality while working toward sustainability, Blair said.

“A green plan uses … reasonable, realistic and timed goals that in our case, a city, can achieve and be sustainable in the long run,” Blair said.

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The city could create its own plan with its own goals from emissions control to planting butterfly gardens, but without input from city residents, it would be pointless, Blair said.

“It sounds good on paper, but it is not really manageable. Jack of all trades, masters of none,” Blair said. “It needs to be a collaborative effort. This is where they live. What is important to them?”

The survey is the first building block in that plan. A simple questionnaire, the survey was posted on the city’s website at cityoflaurel.org earlier this month.

“This is a very broad stroke to get people thinking. Baby steps,” Blair said. “It was designed to reach a broad range of residents and to not intimidate anyone.”

Three more surveys will be issued over the next few months, Blair said. The city will then hire a consultant to work with staff on how to best serve the residents to make a green plan. Blair plans to also work with various nonprofit organizations and homeowner associations, too.

“We don’t want to move too fast and lose very important input we can get from residents,” Blair said. “We want to take it slowly.”

Laurel for the Patuxent, a local nonprofit focused on the environment and sustainability, is one group the city is planning to work with more in the future, according to Blair.

“It is a phenomenal nonprofit organization with amazing directors and expertise,” Blair said. “We will reach out to them once we get some data.”

Mike McLaughlin, co-chair of Laurel for the Patuxent, said the group was still studying the survey and have invited Blair to speak at its next meeting in January to learn more about it.

“The city is doing some good things,” McLaughlin said. “We hope to make their job a little easier as a grassroots group.”

Many of the city’s various departments are already taking steps toward a green plan, according to Mayor Craig Moe. City buildings are having their lighting changed to LED lights and streetlights will soon be changed, too. Departments are using less paper, with some going paperless. The city has also started to broaden its composting plan by providing bins to residents.

“There are other things out there we can be done,” Moe said. “That’s why we want to engage the community.”

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Every little bit done, Moe said, also helps save money, from taking compost out of the trash to installing efficient lighting.

The city is always looking to see what grants are available, too, to help with funding.

“We want to put together a plan that is common sense,” Moe said. “I would like to see us headed in the right direction.”

Blair has been pleased with the response so far, though she hopes more residents will take time to answer it.

“What we have found so far is that people do want to have more green space and a more walkable community,” Blair said. “If people feel invested, they have ownership of it and feel included in it.”

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