City of La Crosse Green Space Expansion

Ariana Hammersmith, Mark Moralez, Sara Pabich, Andrew Pietroske, Samuel Russell, Mitchell Wenzel
Posted on: 8/25/2023 - Updated on: 11/06/2023

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This study investigates how the City of La Crosse, Wisconsin can increase green space to improve the City’s resilience against future extreme heat events, particularly in areas disproportionately impacted by urban heat.

We analyze three options for expanding green space in the City: tree canopy expansion, pocket parks, and green roofs. We evaluate each option’s efficacy in mitigating the UHI effect, promoting equitable access to green spaces, logistical feasibility, and add-on benefits unrelated to heat, such as stormwater drainage and increased property values.

Through a meta-analysis of current literature and interviews with experts, this report seeks to address the heat island effect and its impacts on the La Crosse community, then evaluate policy options to mitigate heat effects through the expansion of green spaces. Specifically, this report examines:

  1. The definition and causes of urban heat islands
  2. The health and economic effects of heat islands on residents
  3. The racial and socioeconomic distribution of heat islands within La Crosse, with a particular focus on environmental justice and equity
  4. The costs and consequences of intra-urban heat islands and disparities in access to green spaces.

Ultimately, we recommend that the City prioritize tree canopy expansion in the areas with the least green space and most impervious surfaces while also investigating the feasibility of pocket parks and green roofs. We also outline considerations for implementation as the City moves forward with a pilot project.


    Hammersmith, A., Moralez, M., Pabich, S., Pietroske, A., Russell, S., Wenzel, M. (2023). City of La Crosse Green Space Expansion. Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin. 

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    The University of Wisconsin–Madison is the original University of Wisconsin, created at the same time Wisconsin achieved statehood in 1848. It received Wisconsin’s land grant and became the state’s land-grant university after Congress adopted the Morrill Act in 1862.

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