Behind the Scenes With the Fourth Plan Working Groups

What is the most important environmental goal for the tri-state metropolitan area over the next 25 years? Three groups of experts met recently to debate this question and others as part RPA’s research for the Fourth Regional Plan.

When we launched work on the Fourth Plan a year ago, we knew that in order to craft a comprehensive blueprint for the region, we would need to have extensive input from a large pool of creative thinkers, policy makers, RPA board members and community and civic representatives. (We also want to hear from interested residents who might not be planning experts – more on that shortly.) Our expert contributors have been asked to join one of eight working groups of one to two dozen individuals who will meet regularly to discuss approaches to our biggest policy challenges and help us cast the widest-possible net in seeking new ideas. The three groups that are focusing on environmental issues – Parks & Landscapes, Energy, and Climate Change – separately kicked off their conversations in early June.

While views among the groups varied, they coalesced around one core theme: Our environment, economy and social well-being are intrinsically linked, and climate change considerations must be incorporated into all aspects of regional planning. Group members encouraged us to view open space – our forests and wetlands as well as our urban parks – as critical infrastructure, and to envision a future in which the entire region functions as a green network that supports the economy while mitigating and adapting to climate change. Our energy systems should focus on carbon reduction, affordability and security, and our region should work toward a carbon-neutral future. And many in the working groups underlined the need to change our institutional and financial structures to create incentives to achieve these goals in the metropolitan region.

We’ll have an update from our Transportation and Financing & Governance working groups soon, followed by Housing, Communities and Economic Development. In the meantime, RPA is eager to hear your ideas for our region. You can post a comment here, tweet at us or post on our Facebook page. And next year, we’ll be launching a more formal call for ideas to hear from a wide range of voices in the region. -- Wendy Pollack