Twenty-one professionals attended The Watershed Institute’s green infrastructure certification course in early February, learning how to design, install and maintain sustainable landscapes in New Jersey.
This second year of the Watershed Institute Green Infrastructure (WIGI) training involved hands-on learning for participants about various types of green infrastructure, including rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, and more. The training was taught in collaboration with professionals from the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professionals (CBLP) program.
The first two days involved virtual training and will be followed by a field day in March to see rain gardens, porous pavement, detention basins, and other green infrastructure in Hopewell Borough, at a Hopewell Township residence and at the Capitol Heath complex in Pennington.
Watershed Executive Director Jim Waltman described the participants as “pioneers” who will be applying a new state rule that requires green infrastructure be used in new, large construction as the primary means of managing polluted stormwater runoff. Towns and cities have until March 2021 to update their ordinances to be in step with the rule issued by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).
“The importance of this course is becoming more apparent every day with climate change and the triple threat of flooding, drought, and water pollution. Your efforts will help control and manage this locally,” Waltman said. “We want to build demand and designs for more naturalistic, benign, and regenerative ways of managing polluted stormwater and using our model ordinance.”
Participants, including landscape designers and architects, horticulturist, engineers, and municipal staff, brought their diverse perspectives to the sessions. Another course – this one aimed at public works and municipal professionals – is set for Feb. 25 and will be entirely virtual.
Beth Ginter, the Executive Director of the partner Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council in Silver Springs, Md., said her organization runs the CBLP program. They partnered with the Watershed and tailored the presentations to be meaningful to people working in New Jersey. They also gave examples from the six Mid-Atlantic States where her organization does its work.
She said New Jersey’s new stormwater rule is “everything in terms of driving people to the training. People recognize that they may not have all of the skills and understanding to meet those standards. People are looking for opportunities to distinguish themselves and make sure they are doing the work correctly.
“There are so many pieces of the puzzle to put together. It isn’t just the engineering of a stormwater practice; how do you select the vegetation and right plants? There are a lot of subtleties to do it. This is a field where we have a lot of things to learn and it is always evolving, so it is hard for anyone of us to keep up,” she said. “We welcome collaboration and education among us all.”
Land Steward Alex Rivera of the Mercer County Parks Commission, which is responsible for the ecological management of the county parks, said the training built on a prior course he took on green infrastructure last summer given by the Water Environment Federation and National Recreation Parks Association.
“In that program, they really covered the construction, inspection, and maintenance of green infrastructure,” he said. While those issues were also covered again, “the reason I wanted to take this course was to increase my abilities on the design pieces and plan out projects and assess what features would work best for a specific location.”
He will be working with the Watershed staff on an upcoming green infrastructure project in Trenton. He will be helping make decisions on the engineering, vegetation and design for a bioretention feature at the John A. Roebling Memorial Park, a freshwater marsh adjoining the Delaware River.
Mike Pisauro, Esq., who directs the Watershed’s advocacy efforts, said current systems are insufficient to handle the intense amount of rainfall that occurs in short periods throughout New Jersey. “If we are going to have the goals of the Clean Water Act be reached, we need to do a better job with our stormwater management and land use in New Jersey,” Pisauro said.
The Watershed-certified professionals have in-depth knowledge of the best practices for sustainable landscapes and a focus on maintenance of these stormwater practices. The Watershed Institute encourages consumers to ask for these WIGI-certified individuals when selecting a landscaping company.
The Watershed certification shows an advanced level of professionalism and knowledge of sustainable landscaping practices to create healthier watersheds. Certification is voluntary and candidates who take the two-day course then must pass a comprehensive exam that assesses an individual’s command of sustainable practices in the design, installation, and maintenance of landscapes.