Coon Rapids aims to boost sustainability efforts

Coon Rapids has joined the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program to boost its sustainability and quality of life efforts.

The decision by the Coon Rapids City Council to become part of this free, voluntary program came following a recommendation of the Coon Rapids Sustainability Commission and a presentation at a work session by GreenStep official Diana McKeown.

Established by state legislation in 2008 to provide sustainable best practices focusing on local government reducing energy use and greenhouse gases, the GreenStep program is a public-private partnership involving, among others, the Minnesota Pollutions Control Agency’s Office of Energy Security, Clean Energy Resource Teams, League of Minnesota Cities and Great Plains Institute.

According to Colleen Sinclair, Coon Rapids recycling coordinator who has been designated the city’s GreenStep coordinator, the program offers 28 sustainable development best practices in five areas – buildings and lighting, transportation, land use, environmental management and economic and community development.

Each best practice can be implemented by completing one or more actions from a list of four to eight, said Sinclair, who is also staff liaison to the sustainability commission.

“These actions are tailored to all Minnesota cities, focus on cost savings and energy use reduction, and encourage civic innovation,” she said.

“This program provides clear goals for citywide sustainability in various areas. We are able to track what areas Coon Rapids is currently doing well in and what areas we can improve in based on specific criteria.”

It will provide a framework for future projects and initiatives, Sinclair said.

Under the GreenStep program, Coon Rapids is a listed as a class A city based on its size and makeup of employees and properties, she said.

A recent audit by staff in city departments has identified that 14 of the 28 steps have been completed and once those have been recorded with GreenStep, Coon Rapids will qualify for step two in the three-level program, Sinclair said.

Completed steps include efficient existing private buildings; efficient building, street lighting and signals; building reuse; comprehensive planning and implementation; mixed land uses; efficient highway-oriented development; mobility options; efficient city fleets; urban forests; parks and trails; efficient storm water management; solid waste reduction and community engagement.

Among credit benchmarks Coon Rapids has not completed are new green buildings; conservation land use design; complete green streets; demand-side travel planning; surface water quality; local air quality; green business development and renewable energy.

“Currently, no other city in Anoka County is a GreenStep city and we hope Coon Rapids can be a leader in this program,” Sinclair said.

There are presently 59 other cities that are members of the GreenStep program in Minnesota, according to Sinclair.

The city’s sustainability commission has been designated by the council as the city’s GreenStep coordination team.

“These are great guidelines to move the city forward and a good tool for the commission,” said Mayor Tim Howe.

Created in 2008, the sustainability commission researches ideas and options for sustainable living within Coon Rapids. It meets the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Coon Rapids City Center.