Residents of Toledo’s Old North End can provide input for a planned neighborhood green stormwater infrastructure. The Urban Waters Grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency, which provides funding for such efforts, awarded grant funds last October to 22 communities around the country, including Toledo.
On January 17th, Vistula Management will host an open meeting at the Friendly Center, to provide information about the grant and to solicit input from residents.
Melissa Greene, coordinator for the Toledo-Lucas County Sustainability Commission, has lead the way for similar projects in the area. “We have green infrastructure goals and plans for the entire county to reduce urban runoff that contributes to the harmful algae blooms,” said Greene.
When It Rains, It Pours
According to the EPA, stormwater runoff in urban environments is one of the main causes of water pollution. Runoff might seem innocuous but, unlike natural terrain, surfaces like asphalt roads, parking lots and sidewalks are impervious and do not absorb rainwater. Instead, rain that lands or is collected on these surfaces gets shunted into the rainwater runoff system and, eventually, into Lake Erie – carrying with it pesticides, petrochemicals, and other pollutants.
Water runoff from sidewalks and streets can be managed, using the water for irrigating gardens and trees, while cutting down on sewer overflows.
Adding rain gardens, green roofs and walls and permeable pavement will help remedy this problem and protect the lake. Additionally, according to Greene, “These types of installations will mostly have an impact on the neighborhoods themselves. It’s not only about managing stormwater pollution, it’s also about beautifying the area by doing things like planting trees and creating pollinator habitats for bees and butterflies.”
Spreading the Word
United North and Vistula Management are two key groups involved in getting the word out to community members. “I’m very eager to see projects like this happening”, said John Kiely, Vistula Management President. “One of my main goals is educating our residents by helping them become more aware of what they can do to make the neighborhood a better place.”
“Our role is community outreach”, said Michelle Wasylecki, Director of Community Services at United North. “We’re making sure that residents are getting actively involved in the process and that they understand the benefits of a green stormwater infrastructure. Our goal is for residents to sustain this project for the long term,” said Wasylecki.
Other areas of Toledo have seen the benefits from this type of infrastructure planning. Last year, the Junction Community Coalition completed a similar project that turned vacant homes and empty lots within the Junction Avenue neighborhoods into green spaces and rain gardens.
Once a plan is worked out with residents living in the area, students from the University of Toledo engineering department, under the direction of Dr. Cyndee Gruden, will work to coordinate the project and bring the plans to life.