Earlier this year, the National APA Conference was held in New Orleans from April 21-24. The APA, otherwise known as the American Planning Association, is the leading organization representing the urban planning discipline. Its services range from national advocacy for planning policies to providing continuing education opportunities for the nation’s planning professionals. Each year, planners from the public and private sector come together at the APA’s annual meeting to hear about the latest innovations within the field and to highlight planning success stories from communities across the nation.
This year the national spotlight was centered on the greater New Orleans region, so with that in mind, I coordinated and led an education session in New Orleans covering the strides in resilience made on the Mississippi Coast since the impact of Hurricane Katrina. The 1-hour-and-15-minute session included material from a wide variety of coastal Mississippi planning organizations and was presented before a packed room consisting of various planning practitioners and other stakeholders associated with urban policy. The format of the presentation was a panel discussion, with input provided from four different speakers, each providing their own unique perspective on coastal resilience.
The first portion of the session was an overview I presented, which went into brief detail about Hurricane Katrina’s impact along with some information on basic tools and approaches that had been implemented across the coast to reduce the overall risk profile of the region.
Next up was Rick Stickler, floodplain manager with the city of Biloxi, who provided information on the different regulations enacted by the city following Hurricane Katrina.
David Perkes, with the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, was on hand to discuss some of the innovative rebuilding projects his organization was responsible for, along with an environmental restoration project conducted along the Bayou Auguste waterway.
The final presentation of the session was from LaDon Swann, director of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, who discussed some of the tools and services available through the consortium, such as decision support tools like the Coastal Resilience Index and small grant programs to aid in local resilience initiatives.
Aside from being able to promote additional awareness about the coastal mitigation efforts being employed along the Mississippi Coast, continuing education sessions, such as the one above, can serve as a springboard for future collaboration and discussion.
Through our experience at the National APA, we were not only able to share the Mississippi experience with other national planners, we were also able to gain insight into the unique experiences and events that drove other communities to improve their adaptive capacity in the face of sudden environmental change.
My hope is this session may continue to spark some dialogue in the near future when the recorded sessions from this year’s conference are made available later this summer. The National APA conference is an important networking resource for the planning community, with reach into other professions, such as real estate and landscape architecture. It was great to tell the Mississippi recovery story before a diverse audience of professionals, who may be able to take the lessons learned in Mississippi and apply them elsewhere.