Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS)

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The Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) is administered by the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD). It is a campus-wide initiative that harnesses the expertise of UMD faculty and the energy and ingenuity of UMD students to help Maryland communities become more environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable. PALS is designed to provide innovative, low-cost assistance to local governments while creating real-world problem-solving experiences for University of Maryland graduate and undergraduate students.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 241
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    Field Analysis for the Prince George’s County Department of Parks & Recreation
    (2023-05) Carbary, Brandon; Rinehard, Geoffrey
    Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) – Prince George’s County is seeking to improve maintenance practices on its sports fields in order to provide safe, agronomically sound play areas for county residents and amateur sports teams. In coordination with the University of Maryland Program for Active Learning and Sustainability (PALS), the county sought to have a “turf inventory” conducted on its “rectangle” (primarily used for soccer, football, and lacrosse) recreational sports fields. This survey involved using the Sports Field Managers Association Playing Condition Index (PCI). The PCI is compiled using data from a number of qualitative and quantitative field parameters including the following: • Primary use, field manager experience, general field maintenance practices, and construction infrastructure (this portion of the rubric was answered by PG Parks) • Species of turfgrass and turfgrass cover • Species of weeds present and weed cover • Visual evaluation of the soil profile to 5-6” • Surface hardness measurements using the Clegg impact hammer. • Soil volumetric moisture content using a Field Scout TDR Moisture Meter. • Compaction levels measured with a Field Scout penetrometer. The primary objective of this survey was to provide PG Parks turfgrass management staff a characterization of the fields with regards to player safety and field conditions related to agronomic practices and field usage. The intention is that the information from this survey will be used soon to allocate maintenance resources to provide safe, high quality playing fields.
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    Micro-Commuter Safety Report and Recommendations
    (2023-04) Callaham, Malik; Guru, Krish; Shumate, Patrice; Turnbull, Owen; Veldurthi, Sravya; Rainsford, TJ
    This report by the iSchool iConsultancy Qualitative Marketing Impact Assessment team was completed in partnership with the University of Maryland Department of Transportation (UM-DOTS). Our specific clients are Marta Woldu, Assistant Director of Sustainability, and Emily Hunter Cosci, Assistant Director for Marketing and Communications. UM-DOTS is in College Park, Maryland, and is responsible for ensuring safe, reliable, and sustainable transportation services to the College Park community. Recently, they launched a safety awareness campaign focused on informing and understanding the demographics, behaviors, and safety habits of students, staff, and faculty who use the micro-commuting options available on campus. This safety effort is particularly important as there has been a rise in micro-commuter-related accidents on and off campus, and UM-DOTS would like to know the factors that are contributing to that increase. This report’s goal is to provide the UM-DOTS with qualitative data and information regarding rider behavior from micro-mobility users and to provide recommendations where possible that contribute to a safer environment for transportation in the College Park community.
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    Exploring Public Access Along the Anacostia River Trail System
    (2023) Abdulrazaq, Sururah; Anderson, Alanna; Dwyer, Maura; Elson, Jona; Haddad, Sarah; Islam, Anonnya; Islam, R. Maisha; Jamero, Samantha; Lee, Jihee; Perez-Rivera, Ashleyann; Prendergast, Caila; Ravert, Megan; Sanford, Mimi; Stiegler, Aaron; Sullivan, William; Thorpe, Casey; Tram, Judy; Walker, Emma; Woods, Kayla; Donahue, Alex
    URSP600: Qualitative Research Methods worked on a PALS project regarding the Anacostia River Trail System. The class partnered with Prince George’s County Planning Department to conduct a sweeping study of the trail system: its physical attributes, users, and history. Upon concluding initial research, the class agreed that their study would focus on potential barriers to trail access amongst Prince George’s County residents. Access refers to general access to the trail versus ADA compliance. The class then conducted various forms of research through demographic, economic, and archival analysis; physical, aural, and participant observations; and interviews and focus groups to better understand these potential barriers. At the end of the semester, the class produced a report with findings that suggest the three most significant barriers to trail access may be lack of awareness, safety concerns, and difficulties with physical access. The department can use this foundational analysis of the trail and its users as they undergo further efforts to improve the Anacostia River Trail System.
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    Wilmer’s Park Inspiration Pop-Up
    (2023) Chelluri, Snikitha; Ding, Daniel; Dzekewong, Leinyuy; Edwards, William; Gaman, Eric; Gradess, Adam; Lunsford, Julia; Nguyen, Polly; Olek, Madeline; Rosas, Adriana; Schultz, Sarah; Soboleva, Maria; Vinkler, Ian; Wondimu, Samara; Yeung, Ka; Donahue-Shipp, Brandon
    In order to contribute to the continuing scenario planning and development of the Wilmer’s Park historical site, students in Professor Brandon Donahue’s Art 427 Advanced Painting: Art and Community apply their course learnings in the form of airbrush application and painting. Students researched the history of Wilmer’s Park, visited the site, met with relevant guests, and Prince George’s County staff familiar with the project. They used these experiences to translate the stories and memories of the park into an archive of 12 x 12 inch airbrush designs. These designs will cover a tent/canopy that will be used for a pop-up appearance at any event associated with Wilmer’s Park. The tent/canopy will serve as an archive of the “revival” of Wilmer’s Park’s legacy.
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    The Connection between Mental Health and Climate Change in Maryland’s Youth Population
    (2023-05) Kosowsky, Jason; Jamison, Erin; Reed, Allison; Richards, Mia; Pearson, Shannah
    Climate change and mental health are two relevant topics in modern society. Climate change affects a variety of constituents both physically and mentally. The correlation between climate change and mental health, specifically for young people, must be examined more closely. There is currently minimal research to establish whether climate change impacts youth mental health in Maryland. What has been established is that climate change is anxiety-inducing. It can cause people to worry about the future and engender feelings of hopelessness. To expand, “People who are experiencing anxiety about climate change (or eco-anxiety) will feel genuine distress that can limit their daily activities and lead to serious depressive and anxious symptoms” (Léger-Goodes, et al. 2022). The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) would like to better understand this correlation, and understand connections between young people, climate change, and mental health in Maryland. This capstone project aims to design surveys that apply extensive research about survey methodology and survey question design. This project also offers implementation recommendations if DNR chooses to pursue these surveys. To provide more context, this paper and the surveys focus specifically on the Baltimore area, which experiences natural disaster flooding at much higher rates compared to other locations in Maryland. There are different types of stress-causing natural disasters; this report looks at flooding because it’s common in Maryland areas that border a body of water. Many of our student peers have experienced increased levels of flooding in their towns. Increased flooding levels can cause stress for youth and create long-lasting trauma in their lives. Further, by 2045 Baltimore is projected to face more than a 10-fold increase in the number of tidal floods each year, because of sea level rise alone (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2016).
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    A Solar Microgrid Retrofit Analysis in Greenbelt, Prince George’s County, Maryland
    (2023) Cummings, Izabelle; Kesey, Chloë; Long, Kelly; Schriver, Wesley; May, Peter
    This Greenbelt Microgrid Analysis was facilitated by the University of Maryland (UMD) Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) program, which partnered with the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment to have students from the UMD Department of Environmental Science and Technology (ENST) develop the following report after a semester long research effort. The effort identified two large, low- to moderate-income apartment complexes that could host enough rooftop area to generate meaningful power to support a neighborhood microgrid. Demographics were determined using the US EPA’s Environmental Justice Mapping Tool. The apartment complexes—Franklin Park Apartments and Greenbrier Condominiums—are both in Greenbelt and fall between the 33rd and 95th percentile for low income. For the two apartment complexes, a combined 28.16 acres of usable rooftop area suitable for solar photovoltaic panels was calculated using the Google Earth Pro measuring tools which factor in regulatory buffers for rooftop access for fire and safety and eliminate tree-shaded rooftop areas. The power output for this area of solar panels totaled 9,025.61 megawatt hours (MWh) annually, which would make it one of the largest solar arrays in the state of Maryland. The total 2023 cost estimate for the installing commercially rated panels with an assumed efficiency of 20% was $21,048,135. Two examples of implemented microgrid projects were analyzed, the EcoBlock in Oakland, California and the Brooklyn Microgrid in New York City, New York. The use of clustered and distributed battery storage applications external to the apartments are discussed as well as the use of the innovative “flywheel” physical energy storage system, which doesn’t use combustible and expensive battery componentry. The establishment of the microgrids is also explored through the lens of community “resiliency hubs” in case of disaster as well as on for day-to-day potential energy cost savings to the apartment residents and building owners. Insights into local, state and federal regulations and financial incentives are also explored. This effort supports the Prince George’s County Climate Action Plan Commitments including: Climate Leadership, Community Health, Transition to Renewable Energy, Residential Resilience, and Justice and Equity. The analysis also specifically supports the Climate Action Plan’s Priority Recommendation M-3, Accelerate Deployment of Resilient Energy Systems, including, “Lead community wide battery storage and microgrid development,” and “Provide residents and building owners with information, resources and technical assistance to facilitate community adoption of battery storage and microgrids.”
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    Maryland Waterways and Public Recreation: Crafting an Effective Survey to Inform Future Policy and Programming for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources
    (2023-05) Chan, Hannah; Dhankhar, Ela; Rockman, Danielle; Pearson, Shannah
    This study investigates the most effective way for Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to survey for data on park visitors’ perceptions of climate change and its impacts on their park experiences. The DNR lacks information on Marylanders’ perceptions of climate change, particularly how in relation to their park experiences. The DNR also wants to gather information about general usage and experience at Maryland parks. This study seeks to identify the best way to collect that data. The information is gathered with consideration of the DNR’s efforts to expand and adapt park programs and to improve outdoor recreation spaces with additions such as safety signage. The report’s findings, survey questions and recommendations are based in a literature review on crafting effective surveys, informational interviews with three park managers, consultation with a survey expert, and a field-tested a questionnaire.
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    Main Street Maryland in the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area: Addressing Inequities in the Maryland Main Street Program
    (2023) Bloom, Luca; Huey, Catie; Kahn, Roland; Sanders, Martin Meagle
    This report evaluates the Maryland Main Street (MDMS) program for its equity and relevance to communities within the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area (ATHA). Maryland Main Street is a downtown revitalization program that supports designated communities. This report assesses the MDMS application process, specifically considering the program’s accessibility and whether it offers adequate opportunities to local businesses and diverse communities that may not fit the traditional definition of a downtown area. The report also investigates the potential of West Hyattsville to become a designated main street area. The report’s research includes quantitative data on the demographics of West Hyattsville, as well as interviews with Maryland government officials involved with the project, such as local leaders from successful Main Street designations in Laurel and Mount Rainier. The study also compares the demographic and census data of these communities with West Hyattsville. The findings from both qualitative and quantitative data result in three policy recommendations: adjust the Maryland Main Street application process to improve the program’s accessibility, equity, and transparency; expand and promote the MDMS affiliate program; and consider West Hyattsville for Main Street designation or affiliation.
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    Purple Line Corridor Coalition GIS Field Maps Application for Walking Routes
    (2023) Cargill, Christina; Dyson, Katharine; Fitzhugh, Thiana; Gebru, Dominique; Gupta, Uma; Haddad, Sarah; Haoudi, Salma; Madden, Maureen; Nkwantabisah, Pamela Owusu; Sanford, Mimi; Seyedebrahim, Ebrahim; Walker, Emma; Bernish, Andrew
    The Purple Line Corridor Coalition (PLCC) is actively working to help keep the areas around the future stations inclusive for all income levels while still encouraging investment and density. This has important distinctions for zoning in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties separately and across some specific stations. Students in the course developed an app using ArcGIS Field Maps to help the PLCC record data from the field and during asset mapping walking tours with community members. The maps show designated areas with routes for the PLCC walking tours.
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    Spatial Statistics Studies for the Maryland Department of Planning
    (2022) Bush, Brandon Myron; Intrater, Itai Tirosh; Jablonski, Peter; Logan, Karl Joseph; McWeeny, Ryan James; Munshell, Blake Weimann; Renaux, Luc Benjamin; Scafidi, Angela Isabella; Le Bivic, Rejanne Katell
    Between 2010 and 2020, Maryland county populations changed in statistically insignificant ways when compared to each other. However, comparing the racial makeup of these counties over time shows major trends. This project will illustrate the statistically significant trends in demographic changes.
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    The Sounds of Prince George's County Pt. 2
    (2023) Henderson, Amanda
    This report expands on a previous project with Prince George’s County, The Sounds of Prince George’s County, in which a student researched, visited, documented, and assembled data on historically relevant music venues in the Blue Line Corridor near Largo. The Sounds of Prince George’s County Pt. 2 includes a list of the locations of various music venues in the county and their attributed area, genre, and songs along with their opening and closing dates, or the current state of the location. The corresponding artist for each location is someone who has performed at that venue. The report then expands on ideas for future engagement around these locations in the future.
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    Reimagining Wilmer's Park
    (Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), 2022) Adams, Thomas; Akers, Bryce; Contreras, Edenilson; Dashiell, Isiah; Erwin, Abby; Gonzalez, Carlos; Hargrove, Cierra; Jeon, Ryan; Mohan, Madison; Ourand, Matthew; Shelton, Gabrielle; Steuernagle, Emmeline; Thomas-Cogar, Kennedy; Yang, Charlotte; Cakil, Yasemin; Kweon, Byoung-Suk; Seiz, Audrey
    Wilmer’s Park is a “80-acre parcel containing the ruins of a dance hall, motel, ranch house, covered stage, baseball and football fields. As a major stop on the Chitlin Circuit, Wilmer’s Park opened its doors to African-American musicians, entertainers, athletes and fans from the early 1950s through the late 1960s. Arthur Wilmer used his experience and connections developed as the owner of a night club in Washington, D. C. to bring both popular acts and up-and-coming performers to rural Prince George’s County; the bandstand at Wilmer’s Park showcased everyone from Duke Ellington and Otis Redding to the Temptations, Patti La Belle, and a young Stevie Wonder. The former tobacco farm played an important role in exposing emerging musicians to local African Americans during a time of segregation.” The park has been closed for 10+ years and the purpose of this project is to transform Wilmer’s Park for the residents of Brandywine or nearby communities. For this project, students work in teams of three to design a master plan along with an individual detailed site plan. The design program for these plans came from the residents’ comments from community engagement workshops, notes from Councilman Harrison’s interview, important stakeholders, the field trip, and guest lectures. The master plan does not include all 80 acres of the park and often identifies a phasing plan for the entire project.
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    Scenario Planning for Restorative Justice in Lakeland
    (Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), 2022) Abban, John; Abe, Danielle; Asamoah, Heather; Dyson, Katharine; Farieta, Maria; Hackman, Michael; Jett, Connor; Kaku, Upasana; Kaushik, Redowan; Madden, Maureen; Mekonnen, Elizabeth; Mitchell, Caitlyn; Nkwantabisah, Pamela Owusu; Ripley, Benjamin; Spaniol, Matthew; Whiteheart, Rachel; Irazabal, Clara; Cameron, Hannah
    This report begins with a discussion of the concept of restorative justice and the three themes that guided and organized our work — community infrastructure, housing and land use, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. Following this introduction of the three guiding themes, the report contains a summary of our analysis of existing conditions, including a review of different planning sectors, a brief history of Lakeland, and a summary of plans and policies that have influenced the course of Lakeland. The next section of the report is a summary of the findings of our various community engagement approaches, including recommendations for future best practices for the city and the Restorative Justice Commission as they continue this work. Finally, we present the three planning scenarios — Status Quo, Reform, and Revolutionary — that envision various alternative futures for Lakeland.
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    Solar Microgrid Implementation in Prince George’s County, Maryland
    (Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), 2022) French, Chase; Van Kirk, Jack; Messick, Andrew; Megale Sanders, Martin
    This paper discusses the benefits associated with developing a solar microgrid in a low-income community in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The benefits include reduced air pollution in the community, reduced adverse health impacts from air pollution, reduced spending on utility bills, as well as increased energy security and a more equitable distribution of renewable energy. Using various sources including reports, academic articles, and case studies, this study proves installation of a microgrid in the County would benefit the community and the surrounding area. An in-depth cost-benefit analysis proves the economic feasibility of a microgrid, and the social benefits provide a sound argument for the benefits of installation. Barriers to implementation are also discussed, focusing on problems related to the source of initial funding. The study concludes with two recommendations for implementing resilient solar photovoltaic systems in Prince George’s County. First, finding alternative funding for a microgrid such as federal grants, public partnership, private sector involvement, and community-based funding. Second, the County should consider using community solar rather than a microgrid based on case studies that indicate the cost-effectiveness and increased feasibility of community solar compared to a solar microgrid.
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    Neighborhood Perceptions and Biking in the Port Towns of Prince George’s County, Maryland
    (Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), 2022) Friel, Andrew; Goldscher, Paige; Ortiz, Cristian; Solan, Jennifer; Sorensen, Jacob; Cooper-Jean, Ebonie
    The relationship between biking and gentrification in the Port Towns has yet to be fully understood. While working with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, students from the University of Maryland sought to identify barriers to biking access in the Port Towns of Prince George’s County, Maryland, and how Port Towns residents perceive development, gentrification, and biking.
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    Non-Traditional Maryland Mainstreets
    (Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability, 2022) Kim, Tae; Simeen, Afia; Singh, Udai; Yu, Jiaxin; Hoang, Ryan; Garchitorena, Arvyn; Lin, Arthur; Alale, Oreoluwa; Farshchi, Nima
    In Prince George's county, there are many communities and towns that have a main road lined with unique businesses that are central for local residents, but the structure of these places does not fall within the classical definition of a "main street.” What financial and cultural resources can municipalities with non-traditional mainstreets use to grow these small business corridors?
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    Oxford 2100: Adapting to Climatic Changes
    (Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), 2021) Ada, Micaela; Callahan, Erin; Reise, Matthew; Shah, Jainee; Sandknop, Erin; Bentley, Daniel; Seiz, Audrey; Mejias, Aliya; Shteinberg, Debrah; Smith, Marci Anne; Myers, David
    This project, supported by the National Center for Smarth Growth’s Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), provides the Oxford community with a visual glimpse of their newly-imagined port town in the year 2100. Students responded to projected sea level rise of 3.5 feet as identified by the Town of Oxford and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Coastal Planners. In addition to a change in mean sea level, students considered mean higher high water (MHHW) above sea level to explore planning and design-scale interventions to inform Oxford’s strategies on climate-sensitive development. The design of this hypothetical intervention focused on sea level rise, as well related factors such as pluvial hydrology, saltwater intrusion, and storm surge.
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    Developing a Bicycle Network Map for Prince George's County
    (Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), 2022) Abban, John; Luna, Alondra; Gaunaurd, Pierre; Bardsley, Jesse; DelMonico, Jeffrey; Franklin, Kristen; Johnson, Nicholas; Mitchell, Caitlyn; Woldu, Marta; Spaniol, Matthew; Bernish, Andrew
    A class of Urban Planning and Geography students use county data to categorize every road in Prince George's county and assign it a stress value for bikers. Working with PG Planning and the local Vision Zero team, the GIS application depicts every county road color-coated with bike difficulty.
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    Analysis and Scenario Planning for Fairland and Briggs Chaney, Maryland
    (Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), 2021) Van Allen, Max; Gaunaurd, Pierre; Johnson, Nicholas; Kotzker, Sophie; Luna, Alondra; Reitman, Carter; Trowell, Khayla; von Stetten, Tim; Woldu, Marta; Irazabal, Clara
    This report is the output of the Fall 2021 Urban Studies and Planning studio at the University of Maryland, College Park. Through the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), our class partnered with Montgomery County’s Planning Department to provide a planning sector analysis and scenario plans to aid in the development of the new Fairland and Briggs Chaney Master Plan, which is organized and guided by the draft general plan for the county, Thrive Montgomery 2050. The scope of work included analysis of existing conditions within the plan boundaries and the provision of three scenario plans ranging from no change to high levels of change. We concentrated our attention within three thematic areas of emphasis: climate change adaptation and mitigation, economic and community development, and housing. Moreover, our central guiding principle for this project was justice; it informs everything we present here, and we hope that our work will contribute to its achievement. The report is organized into two major parts. In part I, in analysis of existing conditions, we cover a wide range of planning topics, including the history of the plan-area and special considerations related to our thematic areas of emphasis. In Part II, we present three scenarios of alternative futures for the plan-area: status quo, reform, and revolution.
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    Greater Baybrook Green Network Plan: A community vision plan for increasing connectivity and enhancing green assets
    (Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), 2022) Stokes, Bridget; Kweon, Byoung-Suk; Kweon, Byoung-Suk
    The Green Network Plan was designed by determining ongoing investment strategies in the neighborhood, evaluating opportunities and constraints, and analyzing demographics, park equity, environmental justice, and other current site conditions. This green network plan can be used as a guide for creating community priorities for short-term and long-term development related to economic and environmental sustainability. The goal of this Green Network Plan is to enhance and strengthen the community of the Greater Baybrook by connecting the area’s green infrastructure into a unified network of safe and vibrant neighborhoods. It is a Vision Plan for how the neighborhood can enhance its existing natural resources and grow its infrastructure to improve the health and well-being of residents. It has been widely researched that communities with green infrastructure have increased economic, environmental, and social benefits (EPA, 2014). This increased exposure to the natural environment promotes physical health (McCurdy, 2010), mental well-being (Kaplan, 1995), and social connectivity (Jennings, 2019).