Englewood Park on a foggy morning. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

The City of Salem is beginning an 18-month process to develop a Climate Action Plan that’s intended to make the city more resilient to climate change in the decades to come.

In July, Salem hired Nebraska-based consulting firm Verdis Group to help develop the plan. The city also allocated $150,000 for the work.

The first step in the process is to create a task force comprised of different stakeholders from the realms of various interests like education, business, vulnerable populations and city council. From there, the consultant and the city will seek public input as the plan is developed.

The project will coordinate with the city’s overhaul of its comprehensive plan, called “Our Salem.” Both are expected to be completed by the end of next year, but a draft comprehensive plan, which will guide growth in the city, is expected to go before Salem City Council in September.

City spokeswoman Heather Dimke said both the comprehensive plan and climate plan will help create more walkable neighborhoods, promote alternative modes of transportation, improve public health and advance social equity.

In February the city released a Climate Actions Audit that suggested using Salem’s 2019 Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory to set targets for reducing emissions. The audit looked at how other cities, like Eugene, Corvallis and Bend, implemented their climate action plans.

Eugene is working on its second climate action plan. Corvallis enacted its plan in 2017 and Bend enacted its plan in 2019.

“Salem has kind of been a laggard on this issue,” said Phil Carver, a co-coordinator with the Salem chapter of the environmental group 350.org.

Carver said his group has been advocating for a climate action plan for about four years and they’re happy to see it finally happening.

He said amending the land-use plan is integral to a climate action plan. The way cities are designed is one the main factors for energy use and transportation patterns, Carver explained.

Last year's greenhouse gas inventory found that more than half of Salem's emissions came from transportation.

Carver said the first step to amending the city’s land-use plan should be the adoption of a greenhouse gas reduction goal.

“Design ‘Our Salem’ and the rest of the actions around meeting that goal and we recognize that Salem alone cannot meet these aggressive goals, it has to be a combination of local, state and federal action,” he said.

Carver said Salem’s residents and the city council want reduced-emissions and city more resilient to climate change, “but they have to go about it in a more methodical, goal-oriented way if they want to get there.”

City Planner Eunice Kim said the draft vision of the comprehensive plan will include high level goals gathered from the community, while the details like housing and transportation will be determined after its presented to council next month.

“The draft vision is laying the foundation to make sure we’re understanding at a high level where the community wants to go,” she said. 

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Have a story tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] or @daisysaphara.