Posts Tagged ‘Environment’

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Protect the Ecosystem During Traveling – Some Thoughts after Visiting Hawaii

The ecosystem on a small island can be unstable and easily disturbed, especially if the island that is a long distance away from the mainland. I wrote about Iceland’s ecosystem approximately two years ago (click here to read), Iceland must sustain on its own by using Geothermal energy to produce heat. The country’s geothermal resources come from the dynamic volcano, and several major geothermal power plants produce 30% of the country’s electricity. However, the Hawaiian Islands are a different story. On a trip to Hawaii, I learned about their environmental protection laws and the ecosystem.

The Hawaiian Islands are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and it is far away from the mainland of the United States. Unlike Iceland, Hawaii’s climate is warm and wet, not as brutally cold as Iceland. Because of the mild weather and rich soil, plants such as bananas, pineapples, mangos, and some vegetables are prosperous in some part of those islands. Food resources are not a problem for people on these islands. Compared to Iceland, Hawaii attracts about nine million visitors last year while Iceland had about two million.

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https://fishingbooker.com/blog/which-hawaiian-island-is-the-best-for-you/

So, what did Hawaii do to protect their environment and ecosystem?

The National Park Rangers at Big Island created a legend about the fiery volcano goddess would punish people that took the volcano rocks away to prevent visitors from keeping them as “souvenirs”.

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https://www.haleakalamaui.com/

One of the most important ecosystems in Hawaii is the marine life around the islands. They have such beautiful and abundant marine life in the middle of Pacific, take the Hanauma Bay as an example:

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https://bestof-hawaii.com/tours/north-shore-and-hanauma-bay-in-a-day/

The Bay was formed million years ago by the erupt of an active volcano, water slowly corrosion the outside boundary and flow inside, coral reef growing on those rich volcano rock sediments and make Hanauma Bay a perfect snorkeling area. In addition, the natural shaped topography protected coral reef in this bay and current so it’s safe to swim in it. Due to the number of visitors that come to the bay every day, the park is closed on Tuesday to give the natural elements time to recover.

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Hawaii’s coral reef is facing increasing challenges these years because of runoff soil, chemicals, and human’s contact. People who visit Hanauma Bay must use reef-safe sunscreen and no bug spray is allowed. Visitors have to watch an educational video about the ecosystem at Hanauma Bay, including warnings and tips for snorkeling.

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The rainforests also play an important role in Hawaii’s fragile environment, especially for the native animals. When you get off the plane in Hawaii, you have to submit a customs card that states all your belongs that might disturb the environment, such as other vegetation and live animals. Snakes are banned on the islands!

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I was surprised that I did not get a single mosquito bite on this trip. After talking to the hotel receptionist, we learned that this island is really doing a good job with mosquito control by using enclosed trash cans and keeping the coast clean. The fine is expensive for people who are caught throwing trash in the wrong place.

On this trip, I could tell how hard Hawaiians are working to protect their fragile ecosystem and the beautiful environment. As a visitor, I do want to help in this process, because we are trying to protect the beautiful ecosystem for future generations to enjoy.

Mei Fang, who is an urban planner with a strong passion for urban and landscape design, she also enjoys looking for the variety of culture inside of the city.

13th Street NW at Franklin Park, showing people waiting for food trucks in the shade of the trees.

Food Truck Fiasco

 

I love a food truck. I think it’s also fair to say that the DC region as a whole loves its food trucks. It’s like street food, but more trustworthy because it comes from a branded, often punny, metal box truck. With popularity of food trucks and fight for curbside uses (e.g parking) in prime locations, many jurisdictions have created special regulations and programs to manage how food trucks use the curbside parking. But as I was joining my fellow Nspiregreeners to flock to the DC Empanada truck (best empanadas in the District, btw) at Franklin Park, I noticed a few externalities of how these food trucks operate.

  1. Compacted Soils– This is my biggest concern. Food trucks often set up shop along a Franklin Park as shown in the photo below. People wait on the grass in the shaded areas that are within earshot of the trucks. In addition, people take short cuts through the grass to get to their favorite truck. With all of this foot traffic, the soils in this park near the food trucks is compacted. When soil gets to this extent of compaction, the shallow roots of grasses become starved for growing space, nutrients, and water and begin to die off. The scuffing of feet on the compacted soil loosens the top layers and soil sediment then blows in the wind or is washed into stormwater runoff. During rain, the rest of the compacted soil acts almost similar to impervious surfaces, where runoff can sheet across without being absorbed. If the storm is long enough and it is absorbed, the area becomes a mud pit and a potential tripping hazard when it dries again. 

13th Street NW looking north from Franklin Park. Photo shows People in business attire waiting for food from food trucks. The soil under their feet in the park is compacted and grass is not growing at the edge of the park.

Solution: Temporary waiting areas, with lighter touch on the ground or those that aerate the soil while people use them. These can be formalized waiting areas sectioned off by using ropes or guideposts.

  1. Crowded sidewalks or inadequate public space– Many times when trucks set up along streets there is inadequate sidewalk or public space to accommodate the lines of people and crowds waiting for their food. People that need to use the sidewalk to pass either must cross or zigzag their way through the crowds and lines. This impedes pedestrian flow and accessibility.

Solution: Again, temporary waiting areas sectioned off by using ropes or guideposts can help guide people to wait in designated areas and leave the sidewalks clearer.

  1. Noise pollution – Some food trucks run nice and quiet, but others with on-board generators sound like a continuous jack hammer that resonates across blocks. Even the crowds of people, at peak times, can produce noise pollution in otherwise low volume areas. These areas can then run up against opposition because they become a nuisance to residents and other businesses.

Solution: The potential solution to this could be one of two things- require trucks to operate below a certain decibel reading and/or provide temporary noise screening walls or vegetation against the trucks.

  1. Lack of Shade – Unless it’s the first warm day after a stretch of winter weather, most people want to stand in the shade when waiting for their food. The trucks themselves only shade the person ordering outside. If the trucks are popular, the lines can stretch into public space or down a sidewalk.

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Solution: The solution could be pretty easy- temporary umbrellas or shade structures or enhance the environment. If umbrellas or shade structures, they could be branded for the BID, neighborhood, or supplied by the truck itself. Increasing tree canopies would help offset any air quality issues and improve stormwater quality if designed to capture runoff.

  1. Lack of Seating – In many cases, the public spaces do not have adequate seating to accommodate those that wish to stay outside with coworkers or friends on nice days instead of heading indoors for a SDL (sad desk lunch). Often times seating is limited or unavailable in these cases, forcing customers to sit on the grass (not ideal) or go back to the office and fall prey to the better tasting SDL.

Solution: The solution is pretty obvious, temporary seating, but these could be done as more exciting installations of placemaking and usable art. The Seattle Design Festival hosts a design in public events that encourage people to interact with art and installations.

Seattle Design Festival Block Party 2016

Photo Credit: Trevor Dykstra

As with any project or impact to our transportation system or land use, thoughtful planning can avoid the impacts on the environment and public space. With a little art added into the mix the result can be a unique and attractive space that draws people and encourages sustained activity.

 

Christine E. Mayeur, AICP is an urban planner with a unique set of skills and hobbies, interested in all things creative and challenging. Christine uses her history of working with communities through grassroots organizations along with her planning skills to help plan transportation systems and environmental solutions that meet the needs of all users.





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