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An Update on Priorities, New Members and Environmental Excellence Awards

13 Aug 2018 9:20 AM | AZF Staff (Administrator)

By Lori Singleton, President and CEO, and Dave Skinner, Board Chair

It’s hard to believe we are over halfway through this exciting year. We hope you all have noticed some changes in Arizona Forward this year. As Yogi Berra said, "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." In this blog post, you’ll get a progress report on our four key 2018 initiatives, an update on the Environmental Excellence Awards presented by SRP and an introduction to some of our newest members. We hope you’ll share this with other people and organizations that could join us in making Arizona a better place to live and work.

Rio Reimagined and the Santa Cruz River

Arizona Forward Rio Reimagined

The revitalization and restoration of Arizona’s urban waterways is critical to our mission of environmental stewardship. The inaugural Statewide Sustainability Summit in May of this year was a statement of intent from Arizona Forward: We will be active and relevant in Rio Reimagined and the Santa Cruz River Heritage projects; these two projects will alter that landscapes of Arizona’s largest metro areas. Guest speakers from Arizona, California and Texas showcased how large-scale urban waterways projects have succeeded in metro areas nationwide. Projects along the San Antonio River and Los Angeles River are not only inspirational, but proof of concept that the time, energy and resources required to bring projects such as Rio Reimagined and the Santa Cruz River Heritage Project will benefit all Arizonans for future generations. This conversation is just beginning, and Arizona Forward members are beginning to define their role moving forward. Our next step in messaging was at our Southern Council Meeting in July where the panel discussed “Bringing Arizonan’s Back To The Rivers.” We'll keep you informed on ways to get involved as more develops with both of these projects. Also, feel free to reach out directly to Healthy Communities & Sustainable Growth Committee Chair Teresa Harris or Co-Chair Odette Bakker to find out more.

Forest Health

Sometimes, it’s hard to get someone in a desert to care about the forests. But let’s put it this way: We are one catastrophic wildfire away from a water shortage. All of a sudden, the problem has statewide immediacy. We’ve already taken steps to address forest health by joining a successful effort to address fire borrowing practices. If you’re not familiar with fire borrowing, here’s the concept: The federal government sets aside funds to thin forests and take other measures to improve forest health. The prior practice, though, was to use those funds to fight wildfires, which depleted funds available for fire borrowing. Our legislators ended that practice, certainly in part because Arizona Forward members added their voices to this issue. We also hosted a luncheon event to discuss further solutions to our forest health challenge, which includes exploring ways to get the timber industry more involved in thinning overgrown forests. There is more to come from us on this topic.

Arizona Forward Grand CanalscapeCanal Redevelopment

Venice and Amsterdam are defined by their extensive canal systems. Metro Phoenix has more miles of canals than either of these historic cities, but we’ve literally turned our backs on our canals. The Grand Canalscape project Arizona Forward is undertaking in partnership with SRP and the City of Phoenix aims to transform that approach. The project will upgrade nearly 15 miles of canals with improved multiuser paths, lighting, public art and signaled road crossings – it will also create a new bridge connecting Central High School and Brophy College Preparatory. Arizona Forward members are moving toward reclaiming our canals for pedestrians, for bicyclists, for public art and other creative uses that meet the community’s needs. We are also working toward developing enhancements for the Grand Canalscape project, with options such as pop-up farmers markets and wayfinding apps among the possibilities. We’re also interested in being a resource for other canal redevelopment projects statewide – or even nationwide! If you want to help us continue to transform our canals, please contact Central Regional Council Chair Kathy DeBoer for ways to get involved.

Autonomous Vehicles

Did you ever expect to leave your house, see a self-driving car and … not really be surprised? That’s where we are today. Autonomous vehicles are among us – testing, learning, continuously improving, and already changing the way we think about future transportation. Arizona Forward is preparing to help policy makers evaluate the progression to this new transportation technology. Our Transportation Committee has connected with experts across the nation to host a series of Autonomous Vehicle Town Halls. These events will help educate and explore the opportunities and impacts from autonomous and connected vehicles, and to enhance our ability to incorporate these concepts into the built environment in different regions of Arizona. WestGroup Research also partnered with us to gauge Arizona drivers’ opinions of autonomous vehicles; there will be a second survey in the future, and we’ll compare responses from both. These surveys will help drive the conversations at our town hall events and will also provide feedback on how opinions about autonomous vehicles are changing. In short, we’re making strides toward providing Arizona decision makers with information they’ll need to determine what’s right for their communities and constituencies as well as opening the eyes of our committees to future opportunities as we incorporate AV into our world. Please contact our transportation committee co-chairs Lauren Evans and Jennifer Pyne if you would like to get involved in our efforts.

EEA Program Takes Shape

The program for our 38th Annual Environmental Excellence Awards presented by SRP is taking shape. Judging recently wrapped up, and planning is underway for an evening that will be a fitting tribute to the many innovative finalists who will be featured during the gala. Invitations have been mailed, so please watch for yours to arrive. We are also seeking sponsors to support Arizona’s most-significant environmental awards program. If you’re interested in sponsoring the event, please contact President and CEO Lori Singleton. You can also register today!

New Member Roundup

This quarter, we welcomed Circonomy Solutions, Hollystreet Studios, Lowell Observatory, Perkins Coie LLP, Ryan Companies, Holistic Engineering and Land Management (HELM), Global Water Resources, Gould Evans, NV5-Technical Engineering & Consulting Solutions, and the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (NAIPTA). We’re very excited to broaden our range of industries represented, as well as add to the ranks of members from outside Maricopa County. Thank you to all the new members for stepping forward to improve Arizona’s natural and built environment!

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