The CityLinks team from Somerville, USA returned from La Ceiba, Honduras last week from an exciting and fulfilling visit. Our team consisted of Oliver Sellers-Garcia, Director of Sustainability and Environment; Luisa OIiveira, Senior Landscape Architect; and Robert King, Director of Capital Projects and Engineering. During the week, we helped our colleagues at the City of La Ceiba run a two-day workshop on climate change strategy for their city. This workshop included elected officials, City staff, and local stakeholders. We presented our experiences and examples from Somerville, focusing on the role of mitigation/adaptation planning, land use planning, and stormwater infrastructure in climate change adaptation. Despite the heat, we felt like we were back in Somerville at a community workshop! Our community takes a very open approach to planning and design, and the dialog with La Ceiba’s engaged, thoughtful community members reminded us of our own.
The goal of the workshop was for La Ceiba to start a climate change strategy that addresses its greatest climate vulnerabilities. Somerville and La Ceiba share vulnerabilities to flooding and storm surge, and we were able to share some successful adaptation approaches, such as our regional adaptation collaborative, park design that incorporates stormwater capture, and the creation of an independent Conservation Commission. But one of the themes that proved most powerful from our discussion was a lesson learned about what not to do: filling and culverting natural drainage systems. As Luisa and Rob explained, the main river that drained 2/3 of Somerville was filled 100 years ago in order to reduce flooding. Then the Somerville developed into the densest city in New England. We are now forced to make very expensive and complicated engineering solutions that could have been prevented if City planners had the foresight to maintain the natural drainage. La Ceiba suffers from regular flooding, but it still has the opportunity to plan land use in a way that better incorporates natural systems.
Climate strategy workshop in La Ceiba
At the end of our week in Honduras, we traveled to Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital, to meet with the Environment Ministry and Director of Climate Change. La Ceiba is leading the way to define the critical role of Honduran cities in fighting climate change, and we were honored to support them in making the case for piloting national climate policies in this city.
The municipal staff of Somerville and La Ceiba developed a great deal of mutual appreciation and respect during the CityLinks partnership. We greatly appreciate Mayor Carlos Aguilar and his City’s hospitality. We’re excited about wrapping up the CityLinks project and looking for opportunities to continue our partnership beyond the program.