In 2010 The Town of Hilton Head Island began participating in the Audubon International Sustainable Communities Program. This program assists communities with assessing natural resources and environmental concerns and identifies steps which can be taken to move closer to community sustainability. Participation in this program emphasizes the Town of Hilton Head Island's commitment to green initiatives and sustainability.
The Sustainable Communities Program is comprised of three stages. The Green Community component is Stage 1 of the program and encompasses four action steps, which include (1) forming a steering committee; (2) completing a community baseline survey & site assessment; (3) conducting a treasuring home survey & pledge; and (4) completing a demonstration project.
In 2011, a green community steering committee was formed comprised of representatives from local public service organizations such as the Island Recreation Association, Hilton Head Public Service District, Palmetto Electric, Beaufort County School District, Hilton Head Hospital, Property Owners Associations and the Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce. The steering committee worked through the Stage 1 process resulting in officially designating an Audubon International educational demonstration site. Four interpretive signs were installed at the Town's Jarvis Creek Park as the demonstration site project. The signs, installed in August of 2011, describe how the elements of the park work to process storm water runoff and provide water habitat. Upon completion of this demonstration site, the Town of Head Island received the Green Community designation.
After receiving the Audubon International Green Community designation, the Town moved forward with Stage 2: Planning of the Sustainable Communities Program. This stage is a multi-year sustainable planning process comprised of four action steps which include: (1) creating a sustainable policy statement; (2) completing a sustainability portfolio table based on the status report generated in stage one; (3) conducting a variety of community meetings to establish community support and solicit community input; and (4) creating a long-term sustainability plan.
In August 2012, work on the Stage 2: planning process began. A sustainable policy statement was created and approved by Town Council in October 2012, followed by completion of the Sustainable Portfolio Table, which addressed community resources and identified priority areas to address in the 15 focus areas of the program. Community meetings were held in January and February of 2013 to comply with the program requirement of conducting community meetings to establish support and solicit input.
The final action step in Stage 2: Planning was to create a long-term sustainability plan after community input was received. The "Hilton Head Island Green Blueprint" was drafted and addresses the 15 focus areas specified in the Sustainable Communities Program long-term sustainability plan requirement. Each focus area of the Green Blueprint includes actions with identified purposes, measureable indicators, status updates and lead and partner designations unique to Hilton Head Island. The actions were developed with the aim to move the Town towards greater sustainability and future improvements.
The Hilton Head Island Green Blueprint was presented at Town of Hilton Head Island Planning Commission and Public Planning Committee meetings in the spring of 2015 and received approval by resolution at the April 21, 2015 Town of Hilton Head Island Town Council meeting.
The Town is now eligible to move into Stage 3: Implementation. This stage includes submittal of data and progress reports to Audubon International pertaining to actions listed in the Hilton Head Island Green Blueprint for review and follow-up. The information compiled will be used to develop case studies which would be available to other communities participating in the Audubon International Sustainable Communities Program.