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URBANA, Ill. - Community planners use parks and gardens to manage stormwater, create habitat for insects and wildlife, and mitigate greenhouse gasses. But green infrastructure may also be a tool for social justice.

University of Illinois Extension will highlight current research supporting the positive impact urban green spaces have on societal conditions, such as reducing crime, increasing property values, and improving health during a free online webinar at noon Thursday, June 18. More information and registration information is available online.

Increasing green space in economically challenged communities could also be one of the cures for societal inequality,” says Lisa Merrifield, Illinois Extension community and economic development specialist. “The webinar will show a connection between green infrastructure and community diversity, equity, and inclusion goals."

Carla Walker, founder of think BIG Strategies, and Tony Heath, Extension stormwater specialist, will showcase communities and organizations incorporating equity into natural resource management. Part of the team will share results of a survey about barriers and opportunities communities in the Midwest are encountering in making green stormwater infrastructure equitable.

Tools and resources for local government officials interested in building local equitable green infrastructure programs will be provided.

About the presenters:
Carla Walker is the founder and CEO of think BIG strategies, a boutique consultancy that creates and executes public relations and strategic campaigns for not for profit, start up and public sector clients. She specializes in environmental space projects that have a global reach or impact. She created the Equity Advisory and Action Committee for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, explored ways to create equitable green infrastructure projects with the North Central Extension region, and serves as the climate advisor for the City of Cincinnati American Cities Climate Challenge through Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Carla holds a master’s in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, a master’s in Environmental Science & Engineering from the University of Florida, and a bachelor of science from the University of Cincinnati.

Tony Heath is a civil and environmental engineer and urban planner who specializes in green infrastructure planning and design. He holds a engineering bachelor degree in civil and environmental engineering from Vanderbilt University and a master's degree in urban and regional planning from University of Illinois. Tony's work includes civil engineering site design using traditional and green stormwater practices across the Midwest and Southeastern U.S., third party review of low-impact-development design plans for Metro Nashville, and storm water planning for campus and community areas. He was the lead engineer on the Red Oak Rain Garden Renovation on the Illinois campus in 2019.

SOURCE: Nancy Ouedraogo, Community and Economic Development Specialist, University ofIllinois Extension
WRITER: Judy Mae Bingman, Communications and Marketing Manager, University of Illinois Extension