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Campus & Community

UMD Sparks Partnership With Pepco on Green Projects

Environmental Stewardship, Community Resiliency the Focus of $125K in Grants From Utility

By Maggie Haslam

Mt. Rainier Community Garden

Crops flourish in the community garden in Mt. Rainier, Md., which received new funding for infrastructure enhancements through a UMD-managed program partnering with area utility Pepco.

Photo couresty of Mt. Rainier Community Garden

An overgrown alleyway blooms into an oasis for walkers and cyclists, city parks shed creeping invasive species and solar lighting illuminates neighborhood pathways. These are among the 11 projects set to receive a portion of $125,000 from Pepco and the University of Maryland’s Sustainable Maryland program as part of the Sustainable Communities Grant Program, a new partnership between the D.C.-area utility and UMD’s statewide “greening program” to advance local sustainability projects.

“When it came time to identify a partner on this program, Sustainable Maryland stood out,” said Ralph Bolton, senior corporate citizenship specialist for Exelon Group, the parent company of Pepco. “Our hope with this initiative is to roll money out into the community so that our stakeholders can really create change. Sustainable Maryland’s team is so aligned with our mission and already a valued community partner; it was a perfect fit.”

Housed at UMD’s Environmental Finance Center, Sustainable Maryland is a statewide certification program to help local governments obtain funding, resources and training for projects to promote vibrant and healthy communities. Since 2011, Sustainable Maryland has engaged over half of Maryland’s municipalities, including the state’s 10 most populous cities. A state law that takes effect this month provides $500,000 in annual funding to expand the no-cost program’s impact and reach.

Pepco’s new, ongoing partnership with Sustainable Maryland capitalizes on the UMD program’s longstanding partnerships with municipalities across the region to develop action plans that meet their sustainability goals, from better walkability and energy savings to improving resident health outcomes and managing stormwater runoff.

"All of the communities and organizations benefiting from this grant are right in the university's backyard," said Sustainable Maryland Program Manager Mike Hunninghake, who has been working with several of the grantees for years through UMD's program. "This partnership with Pepco is critical to helping them push their sustainability goals forward."

This year’s round of funding supports seven projects in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties and four projects in Washington, D.C. Maryland projects include new generators in Upper Marlboro, a flood zone study in College Park, a weather alert system for Prince George’s Parks and Recreation and a green roof and educational programming for the cultural arts hub Joe’s Emporium in Mt. Rainier, Md.

Mt. Rainier’s ongoing work with Sustainable Maryland, said Mayor Celina Benitez, has allowed Prince George’s County’s most densely populated city to hit sustainability goals and add assets, like green space and a city garden that have helped bring her diverse community together. The recent $10,000 grant received through the Sustainable Communities Program will pay for improvements to the community garden, including a new tool shed and compost bin.

“For small cities like ours, we need these grants to expand, and they allow us to do so much more and in real time,” she said.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.