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Foundations

In order for a Sustainability Action Plan such as this to come together, a number of factors must converge. One of the key drivers was a commitment at the county level to sustainability, and the subsequent funding Boulder County put into place to help municipalities in the County follow their leadership in creating an Environmental Sustainability Action Plan. By leveraging local resources and trying to find the common threads embraced by the county, the possibility exists to make both systems stronger and complementary. At the same time, the community of Nederland is moving forward on it’s own initiatives and embracing sustainability more fully with what seems like every passing day. From the Town government, especially the new Comprehensive Plan, to local businesses and everywhere in between, there is and has been much afoot in the world of sustainability in Nederland. 

In order to create this plan, three primary sustainability documents were analyzed. The Boulder County Environmental Sustainability Action Plan, the Nederland Comprehensive Plan, and the Sustainable Action Plan prepared by citizen Dennis Duckett were all examined to see where they intersected and which elements were unique to each. Where there were commonalities, the structure of the merged plan began to take shape. Where there were conflicts or anomalies, they were attempted to be integrated as possible. The document that emerged seeks to cover all aspects of sustainability as opposed to just the environmental, be flexible(living) for future use, and demonstrate a specific vision of sustainability unique to Nederland. The STAR Rating System, which is addressed below, was a latecomer to the process and plays a somewhat unique corollary and support role. 

The Town government is committed to engaging in this process; it was initiated by that body and despite limited resources there is a strong will to make government more sustainable and realize the all-around benefits. This will require staff support wherever it can be found and an integration into existing protocols and procedures wherever possible. Boulder County has indicated a willingness to support identified efforts and especially those that are directly complementary to their goals. There are state funds available to support sustainability as well as federal funds. Town officials are engaged in a variety of regional organizations with varying degrees of funding and influence; those discussions will help shape how Nederland evolves in the years to come.

The timing of the plan and its transformation into a system that is used will be from June to June. This aligns with the annual goal setting exercises of the Town Boards, election cycles, and the completion of this first plan. The process of the annual revisitation and update will be managed by Town staff with help from community members and consultants as needed and appropriate in order to ensure an inclusive and comprehensive process.

This plan calls for an integration of Town planning and actions into a comprehensive matrix. While the Sustainability Action Matrix doesn’t capture all of the aspects of Town activity, it does strive to include the ones that affect the sustainability of the Town. The Town uses a number of different sources to realize sustainability, including the sustainability scorecard developed by the SAB, piloting a new system called Envision for infrastructure projects, and resolutions and ordinances. Defining progress towards the goals the Town has ensconced in official documents and revisiting them annually in the context of the current desires of the community provides a democratic way of aligning aspirations with practical implementation. 

Building off of the strengths and projects already begun in complementary efforts for the community of Nederland makes sense. It does so from the practical standpoint of being able to have greater accomplishments when heading towards similar goals with more resources available and from the thoughtful standpoint of helping these efforts grow along with the neighbors doing them. As one community nestled within wider communities, it makes sense to increase the positive effects where possible. As the positive efforts are noted and the community has a chance to digest the efforts underway, there will be a greater opportunity to evaluate the next steps from a place of informed knowledge. These can then be built upon in order to help decide what the next directions in Town could be and will need to be. 

To that end, the following is a summary of current sustainability efforts in Nederland besides the Nederland Comprehensive Plan, Boulder County Environmental Sustainability Action Plan, and the Sustainability Action Plan already mentioned and how they will be addressed in this plan:

Sustainability Resolution: This grass roots resolution was passed in 2009 to provide direction and principles of sustainability for Town decisions. It’s implementation was not addressed, and there has been no clear evidence of it being used directly in town governance. The fact that it was passed at all represents a community push for deep sustainability, and determining how to effectively use and/or update this resolution is an ongoing challenge.

The principles of  the Resolution are reflected in the SAP, and it will be a part of the annual review process. If the SAP is found to be in conflict with the Resolution, the community will have the opportunity to identify ways to come into harmony and/or identify which aspects need to be updated to reflect current concerns. In this way the resolution will stay relevant, and will be utilized.

Master Infrastructure Plan: The MIP examined the natural and built infrastructure in Nederland, focusing on the water systems with some attention to roads and traffic. There are a number of actions and projects included in that plan to advance the sustainability of the Town's water systems from reducing inflow and infiltration into the wastewater treatment system to increasing the utilization of bioswales to help treat stormwater. In all, are over $10 Million of high priority actions to take to address overdue maintenance and bring the systems into a condition that can be successfully maintained. Fortunately, the Plan also includes a list of funding sources that the Town can align itself with to be bale to tackle these projects as possible.

Parks, Recreation, Open Space, and Trails Master Plan: The PROST Plan lays out a strategic vision for increasing parks, open space, trails, and recreation opportunities in the Greater Nederland Area. There is significant use of the term sustainability throughout the plan and many of the action items are focused on increasing the health and wellness of residents along with preserving the environment in stewardship as well as defining healthy relationships with that land.

Sustainability Advisory Board: The SAB is a volunteer board created to focus on the sustainability aspects of projects in Town and provide advice on how to better incorporate sustainability. As such, for each project reviewed, it shall be part of the mission of this group to evaluate whether it meets the Sustainability Resolution, identify where it fits within the Sustainability Action Plan and which goals are affected. As the Sustainability scorecard continues to evolve, it will be used to provide basic feedback on projects and provide that information at the Board of Trustees level. As the stewards of sustainability at the Town level that interface directly with the community, SAB members are uniquely positioned to support the implementation of the SAP. While many actions are focused on Town operations, the SAB will be critical in deciding where to focus their efforts and provide a regular means of identifying current progress towards goals.

Nederland Planning Process: The NPP is a methodology that attempts to increase the level of participation in vetting projects below the board level. This process greatly increases the participation opportunities for projects in Town, increasing transparency and accountability. The flip side is that it can lead to meeting fatigue and forces people to get involved or get missed; don’t get missed!

Envision 2020: This visioning process was meant to guide the community in an effort that placed a timeline on a desired quality of life for Nederland. By backcasting from that vision, it helps become clear which priorities have been deemed important. The Sustainability Action Plan builds and reviews each of it’s focus areas against the Vision of Nederland in 2020 to see how it fits.

STAR: One additional component of this Plan is the utilization of the STAR Communities (Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating Communities) rating system. This system is a national assessment and rating system designed for communities to measure and evaluate their efforts towards increasing sustainability as measured by the metrics deemed most critical by the STAR creators. There are at least two critical pieces to consider when thinking about this system. First, the system is specifically designed to focus on the whole community and not just Town government. Secondly, it awards points based on both where a community is at and the progress a community makes. 

The Town of Nederland applied for and won a grant to not only participate in using this system to measure progress, but to take a leadership role and work with other communities nationally to continue to evolve this new rating system and try and influence how sustainability is portrayed. In practice, this will likely result in becoming an advocate for metrics that make sense for small mountain towns; Nederland is by a significant margin the smallest community participating in the program. Participation in this program comes with support for the year in finding data, keeping on track, and continuing to advance the efforts of the Sustainability Action Plan. The STAR rating system has been evaluated and the most complimentary items of the system have been integrated into the Sustainability Action Plan. Also, those actions and goals that are Nederland specific are not only being tracked for Nederland but where applicable being presented to the national body for potential inclusion in future versions of the rating system. In this way, an act locally and influence nationally principle can be followed.

The integration of principles, resolutions, and planning efforts is a huge task in of itself. Each action in the plan is related back to the different lineages it might have and the primary sources are called out. It’s not always possible to note all of the impacts and relationships of each action; in many cases the effects will be cross-functional and touch more areas than we can track; perhaps that’s how we’ll know it’s being done right. Integrating all of these plans will not be easy, and will take a good deal of work. But that can’t prevent things from happening because the community is also passionate, innovative, and willing to put energy into viable(or at least potentially viable) causes. Sustainability is looking more and more like a necessity, not only to folks in Town that are tuned into the ecological consequences unfolding in the world, but to the people that cut checks to get things done. Demonstrating a real and measurable commitment to sustainability at this time makes sense, and the more integrated it is the more successful it can be.

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