The Town of Nederland as it exists in 2014 embodies as paradigm of both constancy and change. The population is not swelling or shrinking significantly, many if not most of the businesses and events that have existed for years remain, and the rural sensibilities of self-reliance and appreciation of the outdoors are very evident. At the same time, some new businesses are giving it a go, changes are afoot in the town with new infrastructure projects and an ever keener focus on sustainability. The growing awareness of climate effects and resource depletion are becoming more evident, and there is a sense of urgency simmering in the culture. The Mountain Ear continues to be a strong voice that ties the community together and brings up sustainability issues as they come up. As the community moves forward, there is an awareness of the need to take stock and re-evaluate. A new comprehensive plan was just released providing high level impetus for sustainability and identifying a number of steps for the Town to take in that direction. The Town is investing in GIS management to use data to help make land use decisions, and has employed an engineering firm to develop a Master Infrastructure Plan with an emphasis on green infrastructure strategies.
On that note, the Town is already doing a number of leading edge best practices when it comes to sustainability that may not be as evident from inside the community. The eco-passes for in-town residents has huge benefits from an equity and carbon reduction viewpoint, the wastewater treatment plant is one of the most efficient in the nation, and the number of cottage industries around sustainability continue to grow. Downtown itself is a remarkably complete community, allowing town residents as well as visitors to access all their daily needs without leaving Town and typically without driving. This Plan highlights more of what the Town is doing, but it’s important to give credit where credit is due, and even though we can always go further, Nederland has gone pretty far out.
Nederland in 2014 has at least the following (and likely more) things to be proud of from a sustainability standpoint:
NedCompost Thriving! Not only is the operation shifting into the black financially, but in cooperation with the Town they are taking over a commercial sized indoor facility to try and scale the operation and have an ever greater impact on nutrient recycling.
World-class wastewater treatment facility! It took extra spending on the front end and the technology is still working through a few learning curves, but the new facility came on line in 2013 and looks to be on target to be one of the most energy efficient facilities in the nation as well as producing some of the cleanest outfall water. As a sidenote, there was much more water found going into the facility than expected, and Town Public Works staff have been doing a fantastic job of identifying leaks and even leaky toilets for people in Town and saving over a Million gallons of water monthly.
Sustainability planning! In addition to this Action Plan, a new Comprehensive Plan and a Master Infrastructure Plan are complete. This represents a proactive approach to planning that allows the Town to prioritize projects, identify what to do next, and shift from a mode of reacting to issues to addressing them before they magnify or before they happen.
Recyling and Zero Waste Efforts are happening and increasing! Recycling requirements are being written into leases at the Community Center, the Town is maintaining a contract with GreenGirl Recyling that gives them the ability to track progress over time, and the numbers are up. Zero waste is moving from idea to reality and the Town is committed to getting there. Keep Magnolia Clean reported 22 tons of food scraps and 33 tons of single-stream recycling diverted from the landfill in 2013, and is continuing to expand operations.
Fuel use is being tracked! This is an important first step towards reducing the fuel consumption, and the Town is already looking at ways to get this number on a declining trend.
Electricity consumption is being investigated and reduced! The Town is committed to identifying energy waste and will be looking at each facility in Town to reduce consumption. There have been a couple of notable opportunities identified and more are expected as the process continues.
Moving away from noxious road treatments! This is a gradual process, but the Town is very interested in finding the most environmentally friendly way possible to keep dust down and snow off Town roads. This includes simply plowing(no or minimal treatment) in the winter and finding alternative ways to minimize the dust from dirt roads in the summer.
Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center continues to grow! Aligned with their strategic plan, Wild Bear will continue to strengthen its constituency with the goal of developing a permanent Nature Center facility in the mountains of Boulder County, including thought provoking hands-on exhibits and programs for all ages. Science test scores are up in the schools, 34% more people took advantage of Wild Bear programs in 2013 than 2012, and the eco-arts lounge is getting more use and functionality every month.
Protecting wetlands and creeks! The Town has partnered with local and national partners to do mitigation efforts at Mud Lake as well as in Town at the Big Springs Meadow Park. This will help restore natural functionality and habitat and help some of the non human residents in Town. There is also an active effort to try and preserve any areas along the creeks that the Town may have rights to.
Nederland will be a STAR Leader! The Town has committed to moving forward in the STAR program to try and quantify more of the sustainability (and best practice) efforts that are being done as well as strategically choosing additional ones that make sense. They will have the support of qualified staff, cohorts across the nation, and regular webinars to help stay on track.