Seven Steps: Effective, Cost-Efficient Maintenance of Your Green Assets
1. Plan for Monitoring and Maintenance
Don’t wait until after you need it. That’s disaster response, not maintenance. Make a plan and account for regular monitoring. Together, monitoring and maintenance provide the essential tools to ensure the longevity and continued effectiveness of green infrastructure practices. The International Society of Arboriculture provides extensive training in maintenance, disaster recovery, and risk assessment.
2. Key Questions: Staff Resources for Monitoring and Maintenance
- Can you do it with your own staff?
- Do you need to hire more people?
- Will your staff or contractors need specialized training?
- Or would it be more cost-effective to hire an experienced contractor?
- Can you enlist other municipal departments which have the equipment and skillsets to inspect and maintain green infrastructure?
5. Secure Funding for Maintenance
Monitoring and maintaining green infrastructure requires annual budgeting and reliable funding. Sources for capital projects often can’t be tapped for ongoing maintenance. Look instead to local sources.
6. Enlist the Help of Volunteers
Some routine maintenance, such as removing trash and weeds from bio-retention areas, can be accomplished by partnering with neighborhood organizations, greenway groups, or garden clubs to leverage their funds/volunteers.
7. Procure Equipment
Municipalities should also consider the equipment needed to maintain green infrastructure and determine if additional equipment is needed. Most of the necessary equipment is typical of general landscape maintenance. Heavy equipment is discouraged for routine maintenance, because it can cause soil compaction, which reduces the effectiveness of the practices.
3. Identify Maintenance Triggers
Some common problems require “non-routine” maintenance. Help inspectors identify these “maintenance triggers” through training and educational materials. Triggers include
- excess sediment accumulation
- trash and debris
- overgrown vegetation
- dead or diseased vegetation
- signs of erosion
- structural damage
- standing water present more than 72 hours after a rain storm
4. Update Standard Operating Procedures
If municipalities have standard operating procedures for routine landscape and infrastructure maintenance, they should be updated to incorporate green infrastructure maintenance triggers and remedial actions. Additionally, if contractors are used to maintain practices, include specific language in contracts that require training of maintenance crews. Maintenance schedules should be set for each type of practice, and a tracking system should be in place to ensure that maintenance is performed as prescribed.
- The University of New Hampshire Stormwater Center created Maintenance Guidelines and Checklists for pervious pavements, subsurface gravel wetlands, and bioretention and tree box systems.
- The Oregon State University Extension Service hosts the Field Guide: Maintaining Rain Gardens, Swales, and Stormwater Planters, which was developed by numerous practitioners to assist contractors and maintenance staff.
- American Rivers and Green for All’s Staying Green: Strategies to Improve Operations and Maintenance of Green Infrastructure in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
- EPA’s The Importance of Operation and Maintenance for the Long-Term Success of Green Infrastructure