It’s not just about planting trees.

At least that’s how sustainability expert Peter Vos sees it, when talking about nature-based solutions. And he should know. Currently, Vos is helping to oversee the remarkable transformation of the municipality of Genk, Belgium (population 66,000), from former coal-mining town to one of the greenest urban areas in Europe.

“Nature-based solutions have a value proposition that’s not only ecological, but also about socio-economic transformation,” he observed during a recent presentation in the session entitled “Building Resilient Urban Futures with Nature” at the Daring Cities conference currently underway.

One of Genk’s flagship nature-based projects is the redevelopment of Stiemer Valley, an area surrounding a small river that runs through several neighborhoods, many of them lower-income areas with a high percentage of immigrants. Over the past decade Vos says the town has pretty much turned its back on the river, but because of its location “it can be the driver for multiple changes… it can be the driver for spatial transformation, but also a lot of other challenges we are facing. Especially now with COVID-19 there’s even more need for social cohesion.”

What is emerging as a catalyst for that cohesion, is a master plan for Stiemer Valley that says Vos is designed to create a “longitudinal Central Park”. The project involves sectioned off areas along the river — with the goal of creating a variety of natural settings that are co-created by the town in partnership with neighborhood residents.

Although in varying stages of development, one project that has already been implemented is a park where space is dedicated to both green and blue infrastructure. Green spaces include everything from open fields for picnics and play, to playground equipment to a community garden. Blue in the form of a catchment pond for stormwater runoff.

Read the full article about nature-based solutions by Mark Wessel at Shareable.