More than a year ago, on May 4, 2007, the city of Greensburg, Kansas was hit by an EF5 tornado (that was nearly 2 miles wide) that destroyed 95% of their residential and business sector. While tragedies such as this one have been more commonplace (or more reported) in the past few years, the majority of solutions were to build ‘City X’ back to what it once looked like. Greensburg is a little different, I guess.
The need for a new plan was evident. In addition to the catastrophe they endured, Greensburg has been in a severe population and economic decline for the past four decades. The ensuing challenge to construct a strong economic base, encourage citizens to stay put, and rebuild a whole city in an environmentally sound manner was daunting. To solve both their economic and social concerns, Greensburg could have abused the environment’s natural services and resources to land them (for the short term) back on their feet. Instead, they found the sustainable way. As of May 19, 2008, the community of Greensburg (and numerous partners including the EPA, FEMA, and other state agencies) released a 151-page comprehensive plan (pdf) that is geared towards establishing Greensburg as a model for rural sustainability. The master plan includes facets that address “walkability,” green building, hazard mitigation (ex. tornado preperation), economic development, energy, transportation, carbon footprint, housing, city infrastructure, green corridors, land use, and future policies. Greensburg’s current progress towards their goals can be found here. Check out the trailer of the documentary that is being produced about a group of University of Kansas graduate students who are helping out with the rebuilding efforts: