Founded in 1893 by the son of Frederick Douglass, the Town of Highland Beach takes great pride in its historic nature and community beachfront access to the Chesapeake Bay. “It is really important to the people in the Town of Highland Beach to be good stewards of the environment,” says Mayor Bill Sanders.
Solar panels and green plants on top of the town hall roof serve as just a few signs of the town’s dedication.
In 2007, the town hall became Maryland’s second LEED platinum-certified building – the highest level of certification offered by the U.S. Green Building Council. The town hall scored points for its superior insulation, energy-efficient geothermal HVAC system and water conserving measures as well as its use of solar energy and green roof, among other features. As a building roughly the size of a residential dwelling, the project aims to inspire community residents and visitors to take similar steps as homeowners to use clean energy and improve air and water quality.
As a community on the water, the town also has taken significant steps to curb stormwater runoff that pollutes the Chesapeake.
“You’ve heard the phrase ‘What goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas.’ We like to say rainwater that falls on this site of the town hall stays on this site at the town hall,” Sanders says.
By installing rain gardens, using native plants, collecting runoff in four rain barrels and replacing 650 square feet of pavement with pervious pavers, the town aims to make a difference in improving water quality. These “rainscaping” efforts were supported by grants from the Maryland Energy Administration.
“We have a wonderful beach here and we want to be able to swim,” Sanders says. “We recognize that anything we do in terms of creating pollution, runoff from the streets, goes into the Bay. And that is an invaluable resource, for not only us, but for rest of the people in the state of Maryland.”
Town leaders often encourage other small towns considering similar improvements that such steps are not only necessary, but very feasible. “I think for many communities, the thought is, ‘We’re too small. We can’t do it,’” Sanders says. “One of the things we try to communicate to folks is, you’re probably not as small as the Town of Highland Beach. And if we can do all the things that we have done… any community can do this.”