Growing Green: How Building up the Urban Canopy Can Help Cincinnati Create a Sustainable, Cooler Future

May 09, 2023 2:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Source: WCPO

Growing Green: How Building up the Urban Canopy Can Help Cincinnati Create a Sustainable, Cooler Future

CINCINNATI — Crystal Courtney has a vision for Cincinnati's 52 neighborhoods. As the division manager of natural resources for Cincinnati Parks, she wants to see a future with more trees, better air quality and less flooding.

"More voices saying the same thing affects change more quickly," she said. "It just feels like the whole world is becoming more environmentally conscious."

For the last few years, Courtney said the city conducted study after study, and talked with hundreds of residents about what they wanted to see come out of a climate action plan. What they found, is that it all starts with trees.

"To see exactly where canopy is needed to support the communities that need it most, the communities that may not have the resources to mobilize some of the benefits that come from tree planting," Courtney said. "It's a plan that is guiding the future of the next 10 years of how we actually build out our communities to make them more resilient long term."

The city's already seen a boost in tree cover, up from 38% in 2010 to 43% in 2020.

"All the neighborhoods that were below the canopy goals are all increasing as well," Courtney said. "So we see good trends happening."

But according to Courtney more needs to be done.

Residents from various neighborhoods across the city met in groups to create climate safe neighborhood plans. The goal, according Green Umbrella Climate Action Director Savannah Sullivan, is "to understand what their experience with environmental impacts, climate impacts are, and what solutions they want to see in their neighborhood."

Green Umbrella brought in people from the Beekman Corridor (Millvale, South Cumminsville, North Fairmount, South Fairmount, and English Woods), Bond Hill, Roselawn Avondale, Paddock Hills, Carthage, Over-the-Rhine, West End and Camp Washington.

"We've engaged 11 neighborhoods so far. And what we've heard from residents is that they're really experiencing flooding, not just on their property, but in their basements. So, sewer overflows are a huge concern. They're also experiencing extreme heat, and associated air quality issues," Sullivan said.

There are a lot of partners working to get the green plan moving. Groundwork's Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson said, "Not only do we talk about climate change, but we do talk about historic segregation and racism as well. And what that looks like within our community, why their community looks the way it does, because of those policies. Our community engagement process focuses on these neighborhoods first because they are not only the most underserved, but they are most urgently in need of the types of resources that we can use to improve heat conditions, reduce flooding, and so on."

Those concerns are big, over-arching ones. Anthony Smith, who was in the Beekman Corridor group, said "I got involved, because I wanted to make a change in the community and in the world itself. "

Smith said his main goals for his neighborhood is "to see more trees. I want to see more community gardens so people can get fresh fruits and vegetables. It's coming together. But it's coming slowly. The more people we get into it, the faster it may come to existence."

Bond Hill's Margaux Roberts was part of the climate advisory group and said her biggest takeaway is that her neighborhood was one of the hottest in the 52. On any given day Bond Hill and Roselawn can be 12 degrees hotter than other neighborhoods with more tree canopy.

Heat is just one part of the problem.

"We have a major problem with stormwater. We deal with flooding and that's been a key component of some of the frustration with the residents is we need help with this, Roberts said. "So, people need to understand that trees help with that. And it's a natural way to be able to, to help with that stormwater to help with just being able to give back to the community."

"It's really nice to be able to say that I've done something that can impact my community," Roberts said, but she also wants to impact her 15-month-old son, "so this work is really critical to me thinking about what will be helpful to him."

You can find more about the entire 2023 Green Cincinnati Plan here.

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