the Neighborhood Design Center


June 21, 2022

Rewilding — Making Cities More Sustainable and Resilient

Bringing back nature to make cities more livable (for humans and other creatures) and resilient to climate change.

Collin Breidenbach shares his thoughts

Collin is one of the Neighborhood Design Center's Forestry Technicians. He shares his thoughts below on the move to make cities more sustainable. Read more about this this growing, global effort here: article

Why is Rewilding important?

Efforts to re-wild and maximize green space are necessary steps for cities prone to flooding. This will not only help with flooding but will also help limit pollution and runoff in local waterways. 

With global temperatures increasing and summer heat waves becoming more severe, the need for more tree canopy is significant. City dwellers suffer from hotter temperatures due to excess pavement which retains heat, and a lack of natural shade. 

It is also important to place an emphasis on protecting and managing the green spaces already existing in cities. Many cities around the world have forests within their limit, containing trail systems for public use. Throughout the global pandemic, many city dwellers have found solace in their urban parks and natural areas. This however puts these areas under increased pressure due to the increase in foot traffic.

What approaches are best for which cities?

Because each city hosts different variations of projects based on landscape, infrastructure, and climate, greening and rewilding efforts will be different depending on the city. 

For example, in New York City the landscape is densely urbanized, so the rewilding is more likely to convert outdated infrastructure into greenways/ rail trails, like the Manhattan High Line. Or planting vegetation up the sides of high-rise buildings.

In a city like Detroit, the landscape is very spread out, and rewilding will likely consist of converting vacant lots and fields into small forests and pollinator gardens. 

Washington D.C. is built on a floodplain and lacks the narrow high rise buildings you see in most major cities. Because of this, D.C. is a good place to install green roofs on city buildings. Green roofs help limit stormwater runoff, reduce energy expenses, and provide habitat for native pollinators. 


What efforts are happening in Baltimore?

Several efforts are going on at the local level. The Baltimore City Green Network is a Baltimore Department of Planning initiative to connect Baltimore City parks, waterways and green spaces via pathways to make parks more accessible. 

Project Open Space is a Maryland State-level plan via the Department of Natural Resources. This plan aims to assist subdivisions in the planning and implementation of recreation areas and open natural areas for public use. 

Many NDC projects also draw parallels. These include street tree planting & management and converting under-used spaces into food forests and community gardens. Native plants are typically planted, in order to maximize the ecosystem benefits.