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Wild and scenic cities; transit will lose big if fed cuts; Ohio decides not to cut natural resources

Marc Lefkowitz  |  08/05/11 @ 9:46am

The New York Times explores Cleveland's experiments with vacant land as labs for how nature, left to her own devices, returns to the city. Cleveland Museum of Natural History Naturalist Garrett Ormiston looks closely at the growth of fruit bearing shrubs (from seeds in bird dropping), wild comfry, chicory in feral green space where houses once stood.

What's happening with Cleveland's 20,000 vacant parcels is what Alan Weisman writes about in The World Without Us-the vision, whether we like it or not, is of forests and the eventual spread of fields of wild green (can we ease it's return?). Without new people, outposts like the current 50 acres of community gardens and tamed pocket parks on scattered lots are the (nice) response of humans with limited resources. Currently, the response has been to experiment and plan for large interventions-looking at ecological diversity in land left to green is Ultra-X and mapping out what can be done is the 2007 ReImagine initiative's domain.

Gardens are on the rise here-with 147 community gardens in the city's Summer Sprout program, and 56 new gardens and pocket parks from last year's Re-Imagine pilots. The Botanical Garden is part of this taming process with its Green Corps gardens. Their education director Geri Unger tells the NYT's that even if Cleveland sets a goal of 10% vacant land-to-urban farm, that would reclaim 360 acres. It's nice, but not enough to crack the riddle. Still, its more sustainable than Cleveland spending $3.3 million/yr to mow vacant land. Imagine the city using that annual outlay to support more community gardens. We appreciate then ? more, certainly, than the resident living next door, the city loosening its grip on all that wild and untamed nature's work (the best line from the article is probably this, the last)...

"Driving away from (Ultra-X) Site 6 and Cleveland's east side, you can imagine someone like Mr. Thomas cursing the unmown grass every morning and evening, for years on end. Until one day, he will look over from the porch and the grass will be gone. And a wood will have taken its place."

From All Aboard Ohio: Here's the problem for those of us who believe that transportation is more than just roads-Ohio's Constitution (Article XII, Sec. 5a) prohibits the spending of state-levied taxes on road users for anything other than building and maintaining roads. There is no such restriction on federal transportation funds. So some federal gas taxes are used to fund public transit capital and operating costs. If some or all federal funding of transportation stops and/or is turned over to the states, the quality and quantity of public transportation in Ohio will be seriously affected. Gone will be the federal funding share (up to 80 percent of project costs) for new bus purchases, rail improvement projects in Cleveland, new or rebuilt bus garages, new bus rapid transit projects, and more. Gone will be operating assistance to small-city and rural transit agencies, most of which will likely cease some or all operations. How many Ohioans are affected? The Census shows 8.5 percent of Ohio households have no car- that's 1 million people. And there are 1.2 million one-car households where 3 million Ohioans live and share cars to reach work, health care, shopping, or school. Lastly, 2 million Ohioans are 65 years or older, many of whom may have cars but can no longer drive them safely, the Census shows. Rising gas prices, reduced interest by young people in driving everywhere and an aging populace means we need more funding for transit, not less! Read more here.

From Ohio Environmental Council: "An unexpected ray of hope has emerged from the contentious debate over Ohio's austere new state operating budget: the preservation of the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves (DNAP) as a stand-alone division within the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

Responding to the pleas of the Buckeye Forest Council (BFC), Republican lawmakers set aside Governor John Kasich's proposal to merge DNAP with the Ohio Division of Parks and Recreation. Instead, GOP lawmakers agreed with BFC that Ohio's 135 State Nature Preserves deserve separate management and oversight.

Buckeye Forest Council and is allies argued successfully that the death of DNAP would endanger this small division's unique mission: to acquire and preserve outstanding remnants of the wild Ohio's original landscape, including old-growth forests, tall-grass prairie, bogs and fens, and rock formations.

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