Green Infrastructure Plan

James City County is working with the nonprofit firm, Green Infrastructure Center, to help the County identify, evaluate and prioritize the County’s highest value natural resources – its green infrastructure – and to identify opportunities to protect and restore them. The project began in August 2021 and will take approximately one year to complete. 

If you are interested in serving on the Steering Committee, apply here.

Applications are due by Oct. 17.

What is Green Infrastructure?

Green-Infrastructure-CenterGreen Infrastructure refers to all the natural elements that help support our County. It includes our trees and forests, waterways, wetlands, agricultural soils and natural areas such as parks and trails or areas of cultural significance to residents such as scenic or historic areas.

While we manage our grey infrastructure – roads, bridges, power lines or pipelines – we sometimes forget that we also need to manage our “green infrastructure” too. A green infrastructure network includes large blocks of intact habitats connected by corridors. The more connected the landscape, the more resilient it is and the more pathways there are for people, pollinators or plants.

Connections Count: When landscapes are connected, wildlife and birds can move across the landscape, ensuring their ability to obtain food, find the best open shelter, and maintain a diverse gene pool for healthy populations. 

Pollinators, which we all rely on for food and natural beauty of our flowers, also need habitat to allow them to do their work. And it’s not just connections for wildlife, people also need a connected landscape to allow for a recreation, adventure and alternate transportation – how about walking to work on a nature trail? 

Connected landscapes do a better job of maintaining our community character, too, when both the resources and the areas around them offer a similar experience to visitors. We will look for ways to maintain existing connections and make new ones too.

Why do we need to map and manage Green Infrastructure?

Green-Infrastructure-Plan-VegitationGreen Infrastructure includes intact forests, tree canopy, wetlands, springs, parks and rivers, or agricultural soils that provide clean water, air quality, wildlife habitat and food. These natural assets create healthful communities and sustain the local economy. Tourists and residents alike appreciate a healthful, attractive community. However, if we don't know where our green infrastructure is located, we can lose it over time.

Communities can reap many benefits from their natural systems if they identify, rank and map them as part of the communities' “infrastructure.”

Why is James City County developing a Green infrastructure Plan now?

Communities can use green infrastructure plans for many purposes, such as protecting current and future water supplies, protecting or expanding their economy, creating healthful communities, protecting wildlife and biodiversity, providing or identifying new outdoor recreation options, highlighting land conservation priorities, and informing transportation projects, comprehensive plan goals or zoning decisions.

Development of a Green Infrastructure Plan is an operational initiative in the 2035 Strategic Plan and an action in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, and responds to community priorities established during Engage 2045, the recent effort to update the County’s Comprehensive Plan. Prioritizing the protection of natural lands and open spaces was the most highly ranked and supported objective across all rounds of community engagement.

GI-Character

How will this plan help James City County?

  • The greener a community, the healthier the people.
  • Areas with more green spaces are able to better attract top companies and well paid jobs.
  • Counties can save funds in the long run by making better, smarter investments in water, trees, trails, food systems and parks, and reducing demand for public services and infrastructure.
  • Hazards, such as flooding, can be abated or avoided with better planning, thereby saving lives and lessening risks and costs.
  • Greener communities are safer communities; less crime occurs in green areas than areas without green spaces.
  • The greener the community, the better the air quality, even at the neighborhood level.
  • A connected landscape is healthier, more diverse and more resilient.

How will the plan be created?

GI-WaterwaysA Steering Committee (SC) group made up of community members appointed by the Board of Supervisors will evaluate maps and models of the best natural resources and culturally important landscapes in the County as well as opportunities to improve these areas.

Staff from the nonprofit firm, the Green Infrastructure Center, will help the County recognize new options for addressing local needs. For more background on green infrastructure planning visit www.gicinc.org

Learn more about the roles and responsibilities of the Steering Committee here.

If you are interested in serving on the Steering Committee, apply here.

Applications are due by Oct. 17.

How are maps made?

Using local data and satellite imagery, we can determine the extent of our forests, waters, soils and many other features that make up the County’s environment.  A computer model has been created to help James City County identify many of its green infrastructure assets. Maps are created and evaluated to determine if they highlight the most important and significant resources. Maps can show what is unique, important, or needs more attention.

What will implementation of the plan look like?

The plan can be used to inform park and open space planning, potential priorities to inform  the county’s purchase of development rights, transportation plans, storm-water projects, and other County priorities.

Will this plan restrict my property rights?

This plan is not intended to impose new regulations and it is not a land acquisition project. Just like the County Comprehensive Plan, this plan will look at the entire County’s landscape. Any project ideas that results will still have to follow all the usual procedures for any new development or changes to public property. Ideas from this plan may be used to inform future updates of the Comprehensive Plan or plans for future zoning or redevelopment.

How can the public contribute?

GI-TrailsValuable information collected during the Engage 2045 process is already serving as a great starting point; however, additional opportunities will be offered throughout this process. 

Questionnaires and community open houses are planned at key milestones in the project to review the maps and offer comments and ideas.

More information on these opportunities and ways to stay informed on the process will be posted in the future.

Staff Contact: Tammy Rosario, Assistant Director of Community Development - Email