Creating stronger and resilient futures can be challenging for communities that have limited planning staff or need specific expertise and guidance. APA's Community Planning Assistance Teams (CPAT) program has been assisting communities around the country for more than 25 years, pairing communities with national planning experts to help develop good plans and good planning policies.
CPAT pairs communities requesting assistance with volunteer planning professionals. Multidisciplinary teams of volunteers work with residents, leaders, and stakeholders to develop recommendations on how to best achieve community goals and a shared vision. The volunteer-driven program helps address a wide range of planning challenges and targets long-standing inequalities and vulnerabilities that communities face.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the way planners engage communities, but the need for communities to address ongoing concerns, including chronic flooding, and other disaster recovery efforts, remains vital. The CPAT program will move to a virtual process, enabling volunteers to continue to work with community members and stakeholders to address issues and offer guidance on stronger, more resilient futures.
Here are four upcoming projects:
Addressing Climate Change Flooding
Located 45 miles south of St. Louis, DeSoto is exposed to repeated flooding from the Joachim Creek because of climate change. Five major floods in the past four years that included fatalities gave residents a sense of urgency.
CPAT volunteers will work with the Citizens Committee for Flood Relief (CCFR), city staff, and area stakeholders to integrate nature-based solutions within an expanded flood zone to help manage flooding and protect residents in harm's way. Addressing the continual flooding will help vulnerable members of the community who live closest to the creek.
CCFR seeks help with the buyout of flood-prone homes and replacing them with parks and open space. It also hopes new improvements will enhance the adjacent commercial district and expand recreation opportunities along the creek.
Becoming More Resilient to Future Storms
East Biloxi, Mississippi
Reconstruction following Katrina has been slow due to the high cost of floodplain construction requirements and the restrictive prices of flood and wind insurance. The city's population remains below its pre-Katrina days.
CPAT volunteers will work with the Environmental and Climate Justice Committee for the Biloxi branch of the NAACP to help explore the potential of green infrastructure as part of the renovation of East Biloxi's Historic District on Main Street. Part of Main Street served as Biloxi's Black business district and the heart of the African American community in East Biloxi.
In 2017, the East Biloxi African American and Civil Rights Historic Survey compiled historic documentation to support community and city efforts to preserve significant remaining cultural and historic resources. In addition to increasing resilience to future storms, the team will also assist with the goal of rebuilding East Biloxi in a way that fully utilizes its abundant historic, cultural, and natural resources, and furthering environmental justice efforts in East Biloxi.
Leading by Green Infrastructure
Port Arthur, Texas
The Montrose neighborhood in the seaport city of Port Arthur has one of the highest repetitive flood loss risks in the city and is not currently addressed in any improvement plans.
Two years following Hurricane Harvey, the Port Arthur community is still struggling to fully recover. CPAT volunteers will work with the local nonprofit, Community In-Power and Development Association, Inc. (CIDA) that works to empower residents in low-income communities of color in Port Arthur.
Along with the city and CIDA partners, Texas Appleseed and Anthropocene Alliance, CPAT will explore the potential of nature-based solutions and green infrastructure to reduce flooding impacts in Montrose.
Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Playa de Ponce is an urban barrio located on the coast of Puerto Rico's second-largest city, Ponce. Vulnerable to natural disasters, Ponce suffered significant impacts to its infrastructure, businesses, and housing from Hurricane Maria in 2017, then again during a severe earthquake this past January.
CPAT volunteers will work with the municipality, area residents, and stakeholders to create an inclusive recovery plan. Ponce is looking for a strategic vision with help accessing recovery funding, economic revitalization, and approaches to urban design and historic preservation.
Funding for three of the projects — Biloxi, Port Arthur, and DeSoto — was made possible through a generous grant from the Pisces Foundation, which seeks ways to accelerate to a world where people and nature thrive together.
Each CPAT project will conclude with a final report offering analyses, recommendations, and implementation strategies from the team. Check back for updates on team leaders and team members volunteering their time to assist these communities in need. Previous teams have worked in Rockport, Texas; Quinault Indian Nation; and Page, Arizona. Learn more about previous CPAT projects.
Top image: Flooding in DeSoto, Missouri, August 2016. Photo courtesy Citizens Committee for Flood Relief.