With the weather, rainfall and flooding in the news, we thought it an appropriate time to discuss the Environment Work Stream findings. Are environmental conditions in Northeast Ohio getting better or worse? The answer to that question depends a lot on the type of environmental issue being considered. Here is a bit of a summary for rainy day reading.
Since the 1970s, the region has made a lot of progress cleaning up what is typically thought of as “pollution.” Industry has reduced emissions from smokestacks and effluent pipes. Wastewater treatment plants are doing a much better job treating sewage. And some of dirtiest sources of industrial pollution have closed down or moved to places with lower environmental standards. As a result, the air and water are cleaner than they used to be.
But other types of environmental issues have been harder to address. These are “nonpoint” sources of pollution — sources that are numerous and dispersed rather than a single point that is simple to regulate and control. For example, the region’s lakes and streams are impacted by polluted stormwater runoff, which flows off countless streets, parking lots, and farm fields. Similarly, the big problem affecting the region’s air quality now is the motor vehicle pollution from more than two million cars and trucks.
Environments Work Stream
These nonpoint sources are a big reason why the region struggles to make further environmental progress. Most Northeast Ohio counties still fail to meet federal air quality standards for ozone and fine particulates. Flooding from stormwater runoff is a persistent and costly problem. And there are disturbing signs that the health of Lake Erie, which had been improving for several decades, may be deteriorating again (lack of data further frustrates understanding of potential trends).
It is important to note that these environmental problems are related to patterns of land use. As development has spread out over more land, there are more paved surfaces and rooftops to shed rain, and people have to drive farther to reach far-flung destinations. The spread of development also affects the diversity of plants and wildlife. And it impacts emerging environmental issues, such as the rising level of carbon emissions that impact the region’s future precipitation patterns and conditions for agricultural production.
AMATS, the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, is one of the four Metropolitan Planning Organizations involved in Vibrant NEO 2040 that we discussed in our post last week. One of their many initiatives is the Connecting Communities program which “is designed to provide communities with funding to develop transportation plans that will lead to the identification of projects eligible for AMATS funds.”
The purpose of Connecting Communities – A Guide to Integrating Land Use and Transportation is to promote a region that balances environmental, social and economic concerns by improving coordination between land use and transportation. Connecting Communities utilizes a regional planning process to explore strategies to increase transportation choices and accessibility, help communities make collaborative, informed decisions to coordinate development, reduce environmental impacts and improve regional connectivity.
The intent of this initiative is to create more vibrant livable communities though coordinating resources, partners and stakeholders to integrate transportation and land use planning and decisions in the greater Akron area. It looks at how transportation funding, project selection and planning can better complement land use planning that encourages investment and revitalization of established neighborhoods and regional collaboration.
AMATS has announced another round for the grant process for those in its planning area (Portage and Summit County) will open on November 1, 2012:
From AMATS website…
The purpose of these plans will focus on the concept of livability. Plans should enhance neighborhoods by improving transportation connections and promoting alternative modes of transportation like walking, biking, and transit. Grant funding will be used to hire a consultant to study a general area of a community. The funds will not be used for preliminary engineering, but instead will be used to develop a plan containing analysis and recommendations. Recommended projects will then be eligible for inclusion in the Regional Transportation Plan.
The program makes $100,000 available with awards being limited to $50,000 per grant. No local funding match is required for this grant.
Notice of Funding Availability: November 1, 2012
Application: November 30, 2012
Applications Due: January 15, 2013
Award Announcement: March 2013 Policy Committee Meeting
As a partner, supporter and/or member of NEOSCC, you have likely heard us mention our new Conditions and Trends Platform (CAT), an online tool designed to help Northeast Ohioans understand, talk about and contribute to the future of our region.
We are very excited about the potential of this tool, and we need your help to make sure it gets seen and shared.
We are relying on you and your fellow NEOSCC supporters to help spread the word about the Conditions and Trends platform to your colleagues, friends and family across the region. We’ve made it easy for you; in the attached Toolkit, you will find several components designed to help you talk about and share the Conditions and Trends Platform with your networks, in person and especially online.
Conditions and Trends Toolkit: What It Is and How to Use It
NEOSCC’s Conditions and Trends Platform (CAT) is an online tool designed to help Northeast Ohioans understand, talk about and contribute to the future of our region.
To help NEOSCC spread the word about the Platform and encourage Northeast Ohioans to make use of this resource, we’ve created a CAT Toolkit, which includes items to make it easier to talk about and share the Conditions and Trends Platform with your networks.
CAT Talking Points
A summary of the information you’ll need to talk about the CAT and NEOSCC with colleagues, friends and family. C&T Talking Points (DOCX)
CAT Executive Summary
The CAT Executive Summary provides a short synopsis of the Platform’s Themes and key Findings. This PDF can be emailed and/or made available for downloading on your website. C&T Executive Summary (PDF)
Sample Email, Facebook and Twitter Messages
You and your organization have substantial networks. We need your help ensuring they know the CAT Platform is a resource they can use and engaging them in NEOSCC’s efforts to make Northeast Ohio more sustainable. As part of the CAT Toolkit, we’ve provided you with sample messages you can use to share the CAT Platform with your networks by email, through Facebook and through Twitter. C&T Sample Email (DOCX) C&T Sample Tweets (DOCX) C&T Sample Facebook Posts (DOCX)
Printed Executive Summary Mailing
A six page Executive Summary has been printed. If you are interested in distributing to your mailing lists, please contact Jeff Anderle. We have a standard cover letter and can take care of all of the mailing logistics.
The two other counties Ashtabula and Wayne County that are part of the Vibrant NEO 2040 effort are covered through Councils of Governments. This is a topic that will be covered soon in the Vibrant Daily.
As part of their planning process, the MPO’s each reach out to the public and stakeholders to participate and contribute their opinions. This range of participation opportunities includes Civic Involvement Committees, public forums and meetings on different transportation issues and public comment periods on proposed projects and plans. Check out their websites for information on adding your voice to their planning processes.
Here are two opportunities to act on today! The first is for those that fall into the counties within the NOACA MPO. The second is an engagement opportunity through ODOT for anyone is the state.
NOACA is currently seeking public feed back on transportation projects in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, and Medina Counties.
The following proposed transportation improvements are available for public review and comment. Staff will present these projects for information at the October 19, 2012 meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). The TAC will take action on the projects at their November 16, 2012 meeting. The Governing Board will consider adding them to the region’s long-range transportation plan and Transportation Improvement Program on December 14, 2012.
Each project page contains a comment link for local government representatives, and the general public. The public can comment on any of these projects through Thursday, December 13, 2012.
ODOT is currently seeking input for the Access Ohio 2040, Ohio’s Long-Range Statewide Transportation Plan. This is an opportunity for you to provide input into the Plan.
ODOT is updating Ohio’s Statewide Transportation Plan, Access Ohio 2040. This plan is important to Ohio’s future, as it will set the stage for ODOT’s transportation policies and investment strategies for the coming years. This is an update to the previous plan, Access Ohio 2030, which was released in 2004. ODOT will be finalizing the plan update in the summer of 2013. Access Ohio 2040 will help to ensure that we meet our mission, “to provide easy movement of people and goods from place to place.”
The State is using a technology called MindMixer to gather insight and opinions on transportation issues.
One of the Vibrant NEO 2040 work streams is focused on the attributes of a quality connected place and the elements that lead to vibrant place making. We have many of these great spaces and places through Northeast Ohio that truly make our 12 county region unique.
A good way to begin analyzing these attributes of quality connected places is to think about what we have as assets in the region. Northeast Ohio is a diverse, vibrant and exciting region, with assets, attributes and points of pride in every community. Those assets may be natural wonders, historic buildings, cultural monuments, arts institutions, etc.
Everyone who lives here has his or her own idea of Northeast Ohio’s most important assets. NEOSCC has been working to catalog, map, and quantify the impact of Northeast Ohio’s regional and local assets. Because our assets make us what we are as a region, we want to better understand what they are, where they are, and what they mean to us.
What is a Northeast Ohio asset that is important to you? It could be something local in your community or something that you travel to within the region or perhaps it is something that you know draws visitors into our region. The shuffle images on our new home page celebrate something unique about each of our 12 counties but we know there are many many more.
Visit our asset map and take a look at our “starting block.” This is a preliminary gathering of some of our assets. What are we missing? What assets help to create Northeast Ohio’s unique, quality connected places? By the way, you can also use the map to discover some assets and places to visit throughout the region (our map will tell you the distance needed to travel.)
In June, the NEOSCC published its first report, the Conditions and Trends platform. The platform is the result of over 150 experts in the region coming together to look at Northeast Ohio and how our land use effects economic development, the environment, housing and communities and transportation. The resulting report was transformed into what we call a platform or launching place for engagement. By creating an on-line tool, we ensured that the platform can evolve as we engage the region in a discussion about existing conditions and trends. It also creates the opportunity to add more data, maps and graphics as we become aware of these resources.
In June, the Consortium launched its 12 Counties in 12 Months Board program to foster a better understanding of assets, successes and challenges across the region. Our board meeting today in Ashtabula County marks the NEOSCC’s fifth travelling board meeting. These day-long visits feature tours focused on economic, transportation, housing and environmental issues as well as discussions on best practices that are being employed. The host county is also able to share its quality connected places and the assets that make each county in Northeast Ohio unique.
Today in Ashtabula County, we will be meeting at the Spire Institute. Located in Geneva, Ohio, the Institute is one of the largest indoor, multi-sport, training and competition complexes in the world. The board will also be touring a variety of locations throughout Ashtabula during the morning.
For those unfamiliar with the largest county in Ohio, here is some background from the Visit Ashtabula County site:
We are located along Lake Erie and the Pennsylvania border in Northeastern Ohio. Ashtabula County is Ohio’s largest county. Perched atop the remnants of glacial beaches and covered with vines planted over generations, the Lake Erie and Grand River Valley grape growing regions are the largest in Ohio. Ashtabula County is home to a microclimate which grows 65% of all grapes in Ohio! Rolling hills lined with Viniferas and French/American Hybrids give this unique growing region the feel of Napa Valley.
The Spire Institute
Ashtabula County is home to America’s longest and shortest covered bridges! The longest, Smolen Gulf Covered Bridge is 613 feet long spanning the Ashtabula River. The shortest, West Liberty Street Covered Bridge is a mere 18 feet long over Cowles Creek. Tour the remaining 16 covered bridges while immersing yourself in our Western Reserve Architecture and Midwestern Charm. Experience shopping and street festivals in our historic downtowns, bike ride on our 26 mile Greenway Trail, visit one of our 19 unique museums or cast your line for a record steelhead trout in one of our two Wild and Scenic Rivers. We are the Steelhead capital of Ohio! In Lake Erie and Pymatuning Lake you are can cast your rods for walleye, musky, bass and other fish. Boating and camping opportunities abound.
In developing our new site we took great care to reflect the theme of our engagement process, Learn, Share, Create and Act. Throughout these pages, and on our accompanying Conditions and Trends platform there are moments to learn about our initiative and some of our early findings, places to share your thoughts, suggestions and what you value most about Northeast Ohio, information to illustrate how you can help us create a shared vision through Vibrant NEO 2040 and suggestions on how you can take action with us as well as on your own.
We welcome your comments and suggestions to how we can improve the site and more importantly how we can engage with you in our work together.