Blog › Best and worst moments in sustainability 2014


Best and worst moments in sustainability 2014

Marc Lefkowitz  |  12/17/14 @ 12:00pm  |  Posted in Transform

When thinking back on 2014, what are the high and low points that stand out for Northeast Ohio? We look back and mine our coverage of sustainability activities in 2014 to present this list of the 36 most notable moments. (Let us know if we missed any).

<br />Cleveland Critical Mass August 2014 ride<br />Solarize Cleveland helped Ali Ahmed install these solar panels on the roof of his Cleveland home.<br />Cleveland's 6th annual sustainability summit<br />A flooded cornfield (and its run off) in Northern Ohio

The bright spots

1. Cuyahoga County created a Department of Sustainability, vowing to reduce energy use and instill sustainable practices across the county.

2. Ohio Canal Corridor Director Tim Donovan declared that funding and the finish line for bringing the Towpath Trail to Cleveland is in sight.

3. In a bid to reduce its carbon emissions 20% by 2020—a goal of the Cleveland Climate Action Plan—the city inked a deal that delivered deep discounts on residential solar installations to anyone in the region.

4. The city’s 6th Sustainability Summit convened for two days where 500 people dreamed of multifaceted ways to “scale up” sustainability. 

Dark moments

5. Toledo was forced to shut off tap water for its 500,000 residents after Lake Erie was contaminated by row-crop fertilizer and animal waste from farms.

6. Ohio rolled back its promising developments in the field of renewables and energy efficiency, and gave away its advantage to neighboring states. 

7. The tragedy of Ohio’s retreat from common-sense energy policies, David Beach writes, was plain to see in the National Climate Assessment. The federal government forecasts extreme weather, stressed populations, floods, and degraded water quality coming to the Midwest. 

8. Despite the bleak picture of the business-as-usual trends, the broadly supported vision of the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium offers a needed framework for redeveloping cities and towns, preserving green space, and making the region healthier in the long run.

9. The legal follies for the Northeast Ohio Sewer District’s stormwater program continued after a judge decided against the program which pays for green infrastructure. The case moved on to the Ohio Supreme Court.

10. The Census Bureau found that Cuyahoga County is losing population at the fastest rate of any county in Ohio. We account for 50% of the state's out migration. Clearly, the region needs a new strategy. 

Two-wheel news

11. Cleveland announced its Bikeways Implementation Plan, which includes painting 70 miles of bike lanes, sharrows and/or building off-road paths during the next four years with a $1 million annual budget. (The city did install 9.41 miles of bike lanes, 3.95 miles of sharrows and 0.7 miles of bike trails for the year).

12. A group of small businesses launched a pilot bike share system in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood which then quickly expanded it to University Circle, Warehouse District and Tremont. 

13. After Cleveland officials rode Indianapolis’ Cultural Trail, local cyclists had their hopes renewed that the city is aiming high on its Lorain Avenue protected bike lane.

14. Cleveland delivered on its promise to paint a bike lane on Detroit Avenue (and GCBL captured its first users in this video). 

15. Ten area leaders picked their 5 city bike projects to watch in 2014 

Car-lite living

16. The trend to live car lite—started by Gen X and Millennials—reached the shores of Ohio’s North Coast.

17. Grace Gallucci, Executive Director of NOACA (Northeast Ohio’s transportation agency) declared that "transportation choice equals freedom."

18. Akron-area transportation chief Jason Segedy called Ohio’s expansion of roads and highways “a strategic mistake.” Part of a new generation of leadership, Segedy explained why a shift to fix-it-first and greater funding flexibility will make Ohio’s metropolitan regions more competitive. 

19. University Circle declared that it has enough parking. Completing the first phase of a Transportation Demand Management study, its consultant noted that a 5% reduction in solo car trips to the Circle can be made through investments in greener forms of transportation.

20. Ohio’s Transit Needs study concluded that Greater Cleveland RTA should be on par with Portland, Oregon; but first, Ohio needs to stop treating transit like a “dependency” problem.

21. NASA-Glenn is named the region’s Commuter Choice winner for offering a raft of incentives to employees who try a vehicle other than a car (or spaceship).

22. Dr. Aparna Bole, a pediatrician at University Hospitals who also serves as Sustainability Manager (and commutes by bus), sees a future where doctors connect health and mobility. Bole chipped away at it in 2014. She secured employees who take transit or bike to work a guaranteed parking spot on those days they need to drive.

23. Faith leaders in the Midwest agreed that climate change is a moral issue, which compelled them to send a letter supporting new EPA rules reducing pollution from power plants to President Obama.

24. The Ashtabula River is removed from the list of contaminated areas in the Great Lakes after an $85 million clean up effort. (The Cuyahoga River is not taken off this toxic hot spot list started decades ago).

25. The local food economy continued to grow — with more vendors, customers and new ways of eating fresh, locally produced food than any time in recent memory.

26. Plans to expand trails and greenways really got moving in 2014—with funding for the Towpath, plus a trail hugging the West Bank of the Flats and a “High Line” type of trail that will follow the Red Line over the river downtown through Ohio City. Plus, a new trail opened on Scranton Road Peninsula. And, a group of 14 suburbs started looking at how to link up with greenways/bike paths.

27. After struggling to establish a dedicated funding stream, the Portage Park District passed its first operating support levy. 

28. The national media once again started paying attention to Cleveland—this time for its sustainability bonafides. CNN Money placed Cleveland on its Most Innovative Cities in America list—heralding its local food policies, the bus-rapid transit line on Euclid Avenue; and The Midway, a proposed bike path/greenway on the city’s old streetcar roads.

The Best of the rest

29. The Cleveland Metroparks made significant progress in cleaning up the lakefront parks, and completing the first full-year of the West Creek Watershed Stewardship Center. Plus, it turned Acacia Country Club into a natural area and improved access to the Cuyahoga River with the opening of Merwin’s Wharf.

30. Group Plan Director Jeremy Paris promised that the Public Square redesign will be a benefit to RTA customers, downtown residents, and developers— predicting that it will bump up the May Co. building’s chances for a $25 million state historic preservation grant.

31. Cleveland’s Office of Sustainability released a flurry of RFPs — looking for a sustainable solution to the city’s waste- and vacant land issues. 

32. Cuyahoga County released a tree canopy assessment and a new urban tree collaborative formed between the city of Cleveland, Holden Arboretum and Thriving Communities Institute to kick off efforts to restore Cleveland’s urban forest.

33. National transportation experts, Nelson/Nygaard — who hold sway over important projects that will reshape Public Square and University Circle — advised Cleveland to update its parking policies to encourage walkability.

34. University Circle set a goal to build 1,000 high-end housing units in and around the area. After it completes the mixed-use Upper Chester development, they’ll be halfway there.

35. We revealed that ODOT’s funding pipeline will undermine efforts to reign in sprawl for the next four years (possibly eight if it continues in this direction).

36. Cleveland planners started work on a Complete Streets design manual. The goal is to increase implementation of the City’s 2011 Complete Streets ordinance which has produced only one Complete Street in four years.

For 23 years and running, GreenCityBlueLake (and its predecessor organization, EcoCity Cleveland) has provided the community with in-depth coverage of Northeast Ohio's environmental and sustainability movement. Our blog and website provide news, events, and views on what is relevant to creating a more sustainable future. We strive to be an independent voice and a platform for building up the best ideas. Let us know how we’re doing, and what topics you’d like to see us cover more in 2015. Thanks!

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3 years ago

NEOSCC was a bright moment, but what has been done since the plan has been released is a dark moment.

David Beach
3 years ago

Paul is right -- NEOSCC is an inspiring collaboration that recommends positive ways our region can address unsustainable, sprawling land use patterns and urban disinvestment. NEOSCC itself isn't a dark moment. The continuing lack of progress to stop sprawl is what's disappointing.

Paul Volpe
3 years ago

I would suggest that #8 on the list, rather than being shown as a "dark moment", should be elevated to an extremely "bright spot" in our sustainability efforts. NEOSCC is an unprecedented collaboration and will continue to enlighten and engage our region.

Kevin Cronin
3 years ago

Cleveland. I would also add that the Ohio Supreme Court has yet to rule on the sewer district water plan, though the case was argued before them last fall. The NEORSD water recapture plan is a sound, cost-effective alternative to big digs and more massive water bills. It needs approval.

Linda Sekura
3 years ago

Great synopsis, Marc. And a pleasure to read. Thanks for posting.

3 years ago

Marc -

The only additions I have are to "Two-wheel News." In the spring, Squire Patton Boggs was elevated to a silver-level League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly Business, and in the fall, Century Cycle and MCPc, became two additional Northeast Ohio Bike Friendly Businesses, with Century Cycle achieving gold-level BFB status.

Keep up the good reporting.

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