Green Umbrella in the News

  • October 20, 2016 3:19 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Macy's Green Living

    If it seems like there are farmers markets everywhere, it’s because there are. According to the U.S.D.A. Agricultural Marketing Service, the number of farmers markets in the U.S. has increased 124 percent since 2004, from 3,705 to 8,284 today. Some companies are even getting into the act, hosting regular farmers market events for their employees – including Procter & Gamble, Qualcomm, and of course, Macy’s.

    Sponsored by the Cincinnati GoGreen ERG, the Macy’s Market Days are offered monthly during the summer season in the front lobby of our Cincinnati headquarters, and features local farms and and other local and sustainable businesses. Vendors offer a variety of products, including fresh produce, bread, granola, honey, soaps and other locally grown and made items. The GoGreen ERG says the market is designed to encourage associates to buy local, reducing their carbon footprint.

    Good for the Environment

    How does shopping at the farmers market reduce your carbon footprint?

    Food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate, which uses a tremendous volume of fossil fuels as well as other natural resources. Food at your local farmers market travels much shorter distances, dramatically reducing that environmental burden.

    Conventional agriculture also uses many more resources than most farmers market farmers, as well as generating toxic by-products that contribute to pollution of water, air and land. The vast majority of farmers market farmers utilize sustainable farming practices, conserving natural resources and reducing environmental impact.

    Good for You

    Farmers markets feature locally grown, healthy food that’s in season, providing the opportunity to taste it at its peak. Fruits and vegetables allowed to fully ripen in the fields simply taste better, and are often better for you, as locally grown foods are packed with nutrients rich in your specific climate and region. 

    Farmers market fare offers the opportunity to connect more closely with the seasons: you’ll find fresh greens, asparagus and strawberries in spring, sweet corn and melons in summer and pumpkins and squash as the season shifts towards fall.

    “But I don’t like vegetables,” you might say. Well, we think you’re missing out, but there are lots of other reasons to go to the farmers market. Many offer much more than fresh fruits and vegetables. You can find meats, eggs, cheeses, locally made condiments and sauces, pasta and fresh baked goods ranging from breads to cookies and cakes to pies. At many markets, you’ll even find fresh flowers and garden plants.

    It’s also a unique opportunity to meet and talk with local farmers and food artisans and learn more about where your food comes from and how it’s produced. You’ll also often find recipes, cooking tips and food demonstrations that can help you discover local food treasures and eat a healthier, happier and more sustainable diet. The best benefit of shopping at a farmers market? It’s just plain fun. Farmers markets are social hubs, where families shop together, meet friends and enjoy live music and food trucks as they connect with the community around them in fun new ways.

    Take the Local Food Pledge

    You can support sustainable foods and farming by taking the Local Food Pledge – simply pledging to shift 10 percent of your food budget to locally grown food, and enjoy fresher, healthier food that helps reduce your carbon footprint. For most families, that’s about 13 dollars a week, according to Green Umbrella Executive Director Kristin Weiss. The Cincinnati-based sustainability alliance leader also says “If 10 percent of Greater Cincinnati took the pledge, it would generate more than $56 million for the local economy.”

    Fresh, healthy food that simply tastes good, a chance to connect more deeply with your local community, a stronger local economy and a smaller carbon footprint. What’s not to love?

    Find Your Local Farmers Market

    Where can you find your local farmers market? The National Farmers Market Directory has a great search tool that can help. In addition to listing markets and locations, it includes details on days and hours, products offered and payment options (some farmers markets accept credit cards and food program payments).

  • October 20, 2016 3:13 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Soapbox Cincinnati 

    Ever had a problem you couldn’t solve on your own? By working with others, perhaps you accomplished more than you thought possible.

    Consider large communitywide challenges such as public education, workforce readiness and neighborhood redevelopment — can any one person alone fix problems in those areas? Even joining an effective, well-run organization sometimes isn’t enough to make a real difference.

    The necessity to work together has new meaning across Greater Cincinnati because of a shared effort called Collective Impact. It’s a disciplined approach that assembles numerous organizations around a common vision by adopting a set of measurable goals, working to reinforce one another’s efforts and getting everyone to row in the same direction.

    Collective Impact has been championed locally by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) working closely with a group of independent organizations — defined as “backbones” — with unique insight into specific community issues.

    The collaborations nurtured by this process, with substantial funding over the past five years, have surpassed efforts from the individual organizations on their own. Assembling groups bridging many sectors — from nonprofits and businesses to government and philanthropic foundations — GCF’s Collective Impact movement has generated impressive results, a living, breathing and evolving practice that participants say is making our community stronger faster.

    Just how Collective Impact took hold here is a bit of a surprise.

    Cincinnati’s civil unrest in April 2001 spurred community leaders to study the root causes of rioting that shocked the Tristate. Cincinnati Community Action Now (shorthanded to the “CAN Commission”) formed teams to focus on issues such as education and youth development, economic inclusion, housing and neighborhood development.

    As the region’s most significant philanthropic funder, GCF supported the commission’s efforts and eventually assembled Better Together Cincinnati, a funders’ collaborative that supported new initiatives to address pressing problems in education, economic opportunity and police-community relations.

    Then, in 2012, GCF committed to investing $3.5 million over five years to support Collective Impact initiatives that could achieve large-scale systems change. Six regional partners were initially recruited:

    Agenda 360 advances regional economic competitiveness by retaining talented workers and attracting new ones, by growing new jobs and retaining existing ones and by providing a good quality of life. It had been a program of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber but was recently integrated into the Chamber’s core work.

    Skyward (formerly Vision 2015) supports economic competitiveness in Northern Kentucky in close alignment with Agenda 360.

    LISC Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky is our region’s program from the national Local Initiatives Support Corporation. It operates Place Matters, a place-based model for investing in underserved communities to strengthen neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for residents.

    Partners for a Competitive Workforce advances regional development efforts to meet employer demand by growing the skills of our current and future workforce. Incubated at GCF, this initiative is now housed at United Way of Greater Cincinnati.

    The Strive Partnership is a “cradle to career” initiative focused on improving outcomes for children and students in the region’s urban core. It was created by early childhood educators, school superintendents, college and university presidents, business and nonprofit leaders and community and corporate funders.

    Success by Six serves as a catalyst for change in early childhood education and kindergarten readiness. It’s housed at United Way.

    A seventh backbone was added in 2014, Green Umbrella, which works to maximize the region’s environmental sustainability in collaboration with Agenda 360 and Skyward.

    GCF’s five-year funding commitment to this Collective Impact mission has allowed the backbone group to coordinate efforts with each other and with hundreds of other local organizations, amplifying their ability to create positive change across Greater Cincinnati. A number of other funders have come on board to support them, led by United Way and Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation.

    GCF’s $3.5 million investment in the Collective Impact program has resulted in more than $820 million in additional leveraged funding for the seven backbone organizations (see chart above). The better than 200-to-1 return on investment certainly underscores the power of collective effort and impact.

    John Kania, a national expert on Collective Impact who has advised GCF’s efforts, says Cincinnati’s program is unusual because of its collaborative focus.

    “It’s very rare for a community foundation and United Way to work arm in arm,” Kania says. “They often are competing or ships passing in the night. Their collaborative work on collective impact is unprecedented, especially pulling together seven initiatives.”

    GCF has furthered this effort and impact with training in Collective Impact best practices and regular “community of practice” meetings that bring together representatives from the backbones and other key organizations involved in their endeavors — such as ArtsWave, The Women’s Fund of GCF, the Health Collaborative, Cradle Cincinnati and others — to compare notes, examine data, analyze results and brainstorm about mutually reinforcing activities and clear, consistent communications.

    This Collective Impact approach is working. Despite severe challenges presented by the Great Recession, community impact has been positive. A few examples:
    • 91 percent of Strive Partnership’s 40 indicators are trending positively.
    • Partners for a Competitive Workplace has served 10,000 individuals across five career pathways with 89 percent completing the training, 78 percent becoming employed and 67 percent retaining employment a year later.
    • LISC identifies positive results on 62 percent of its indicators related to education, health, income and housing in targeted neighborhoods.
    LISC Executive Director Kathy Schwab says, “GCF brought together great organizations that are really focused on their missions in a Collective Impact way. For example, LISC sees value in ArtsWave working in the neighborhoods we serve. They’re accomplishing their mission, and so are we.”

    LISC and ArtsWave partnered to create arts-based activations in five urban neighborhoods. ArtsWave also applied for a National Endowment for the Arts grant to help educate Cincinnati arts organizations on the power of community and the benefits of bringing arts to those neighborhoods, and the NEA awarded the partnership $35,000 earlier this year.

    (LISC and ArtsWave created the illustration pictured at the top of this story to help arts organizations understand their impact in the neighborhoods.)

    As another example of collaboration, Schwab says that Partners for a Competitive Workplace was struggling to get young learners into programs leading to factory jobs. Working with LISC, PCW hosted a series of focus groups in several neighborhoods.

    “That would not have happened had we not recognized that PCW needed a place-based solution,” she says. “Now they’re working very directly in specific communities to get right to residents. I give GCF credit for bringing us all together and giving us the tools and the training.”

    In 2016 Cincinnati is seen as the epitome of successful Collective Impact initiatives. Kania, who observes such endeavors nationwide, says, “GCF is probably the deepest practitioner of Collective Impact, supporting backbones across seven impact areas. Its community of practice goes beyond those seven leaders and creates more connections. I can’t think of another foundation that has as many mature initiatives.”

    Once upon a time modest Cincinnatians cited an apocryphal remark supposedly by Mark Twain: “When the world ends, I’d like to be in Cincinnati because everything happens there 10 years later.” That’s certainly no longer true.

    In fact, when it comes to initiatives in the social service sector, it’s just flat-out wrong. Today Cincinnati is probably 10 years ahead of the curve, serving as a model that numerous cities and regions look to as they grapple with complex social issues.

  • October 20, 2016 3:08 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Cincinnati Enquirer

    Bike to Work Week may have been in May, but Rob Pasquinucci bikes to work throughout the year.

    Pasquinucci, who is a member of the Cincinnati Cycle Club and a former board member of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Council, is excited by what he is hearing about the proposed East Side trails.

    “I’m optimistic,” he said. “There is a lot of momentum. It’s just a matter of finding the financing.”

    Pasquinucci said during the summer he cycles to work at least once a week. He said completion of the Oasis Trail would allow for half of his ride to be on a bike trail.

    “I ride on the road, but I don’t blame a lot of folks who don’t want to do that for safety reasons,” he said, adding that additional bike trails would help alleviate some of those concerns.

    Pasquinucci said in addition to being beneficial to a community for a variety of reasons, bike trails often don’t require a significant change to the surrounding infrastructure.

    “Specifically, you’re not having to change the existing roads and highways,” he said.

    While communities continue to focus on improving hiking and biking opportunities, several proposed trails are under discussion that will further enhance the trail riding experience.

    Both the Oasis Trail and Wasson Way have received a significant amount of attention in recent months.

    Anderson Township will have a ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of a new section of the Little Miami Scenic Trail in May, while Clermont County is preparing for an expansion of the Clermont County trail this summer.

    In addition, a former Hyde Park Neighborhood Council board member says the recent attention given to bike trails in the area is appropriate.

    Oasis Trail

    Terrace Park resident Don Mills originally got involved in promoting scenic bike trails through his efforts to have the Little Miami Scenic Trail connected to Terrace Park.

    He now serves as a board member on several committees including the Ohio to Erie Trail, Ohio River Way and Cincinnati Connects.

    Mills and Ohio River Way have been focusing on expanding bike trail opportunities in the Tristate.

    Among the trails the organization has been focusing on is the Oasis Trail, which would extend 4.75 miles from Lunken Park to Smale Park.

    The trail would incorporate unused railroad tracks near Lunken Airport.

    The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority owns the right of way for these tracks and has voted in support of building this trail, Mills said.

    The project will cost an estimated $5 million. Ohio River Way, which is spearheading the project, is working with a number of public and private entities to procure funding for the project.

    The city of Cincinnati has also donated a significant amount for the project.

    Mills said the Oasis Trail is essential in completing the southern section of the Ohio to Erie Trail, which will extend 330 miles throughout the state of Ohio.

    Additionally, it will serve as a connection to the Ohio River Trail near Lunken Airport, he said.

    Mills said a goal is to have the Oasis Trail completed in 2018. He said once it is completed , the trail is expected to have an estimated one million users.

    He said the trail also has a light rail component.

    Mills said cooperation among various groups is a key component.

    “Doing it collectively with all of the government agencies working together improves the possibility of completing each individual project,” he said.

    Wasson Way

    While the city of Cincinnati is looking at ways to raise $11.7 million to buy the rail line for the Wasson Way trail, the Wasson Way organization is continuing to raise awareness and generate interest in the trail.

    The Wasson Way Project involves converting 7.6 miles of railroad track into a recreational hiking and biking trail which would extend from Victory Parkway near the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University to the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

    The trail will run through nine neighborhoods including Hyde Park, Oakley, Mount Lookout, Mariemont and Fairfax, among others.

    The Wasson Way organization will have several events in May.

    At 10 a.m. Saturday, May 7, guests will have an opportunity to walk along the proposed trail route. A group will meet at the Hyde Park Busken Bakery, 2675 Madison Road. Free coffee and doughnuts will be provided.

    The route will be about 2.6 miles.

    Then at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 15, a “Wheelin’ for Wasson” event is planned. The event will be a family-friendly bike ride along the Little Miami Scenic Trail. Participants should meet at the Fifty West, 7650 Wooster Pike.

    Registration for this can be done online at

    Susan Schaefer, president of the Wasson Way organization, said people attending the events will learn about the construction phases for the trail which are planned.

    The first phase of the trail will extend from Madison Road in Hyde Park to Tamarack Avenue in the Norwood/Evanston area.

    The second phase of the project will extend from Tamarack Avenue to Montgomery Road.

    Schaefer said it is estimated that about 100,000 people will live within a mile of the Wasson Way trail.

    “The closer you live to a trail, the more likely you’ll use it for both recreation and transportation,” she said.

    Schaefer said a planned connection to the Little Miami Scenic Trail will provide significant benefits.

    “I think there is certainly an opportunity for connections (with other trails), and I think Wasson Way could be the first step toward creating a larger network,” Schaefer said.

    Pasquinucci is also excited by the potential offered by the Wasson Way trail.

    “The nice part about these trails is there is something for everyone,” he said. “With Wasson connecting to the Little Miami Trail, you’ll have almost unlimited mileage (for cycling).”

    Connections from Anderson Township, beyond

    Anderson Township is an integral part of the regional bike trail connectivity efforts. Last fall work began on a 3.15-mile extension of the Little Miami Scenic Trail starting at the Great Parks of Hamilton County Little Miami Golf Center and extending through Anderson Township to the area where Ohio 32 meets the Beechmont Levee. There will be a ribbon cutting and celebration for the official opening of this new section of trail starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 21, at the Little Miami Golf Center, 3811 Newtown Road.

    Great Parks and Anderson Township collaborated to make this trail connection possible and continue efforts to further extend the trail, Anderson Township Planner Tom Caruso said. The Little Miami Trail is part of the larger Ohio to Erie trail. When it’s done, and it’s about 90 percent complete, the trail will extend from downtown Cincinnati to Lake Erie in Cleveland, all off of the road.

    “This will be one of largest and longest trails in the country,” Caruso said.

    The township and Great Parks are now working to generate dollars to fund a bridge to connect the Little Miami Scenic Trail to the Lunken Airport Trail and Armleder Park Trail.

    “People will almost be able to get down to Cincinnati,” he said.

    Newtown Mayor Mark Kobasuk welcomes the Saturday, May 21, opening of a 3.15-mile extension of the Little Miami Scenic Trail, stretching from the Little Miami Golf Center at 3811 Newtown Road in Newtown through Anderson Township to the Beechmont Avenue/state Route 32 ramp interchange.

    The project is connecting communities through their public parks, including Newtown’s Short Park at 3623 Church St.

    “This is a great bike trail,” Kobasuk said.

    Whether the trail will ever connect with Lake Barber Park in Newtown remains to be seen.

    Newtown opened the park off Round Bottom and Edwards roads last year but is still studying ideas for its long-term development.

    Business, community and Newtown village leaders brought together by a consultant have said they would like to see Lake Barber Park connected to the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

    Anderson Township is also part of Tri-State Trails, an initiative of Green Umbrella (formerly Regional Trails Alliance) focused on connecting Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio via trails. Group members include Hamilton, Clermont, Butler, Clinton and Warren counties in Ohio, Campbell, Kenton and Boone counties in Kentucky and counties in Indiana.

    Many municipalities, townships, and parks are part of this initiative, Caruso said.

    Along with the Little Miami Trail, there are efforts to extend the Ohio River Trail. A $30,000 grant from Interact for Health was recently awarded to Anderson Township for preliminary engineering for the extension of the Ohio River Trail in Anderson. When constructed, the new trail section will extend to Clermont County.

    Caruso is hoping to collaborate with Clermont County Parks, Great Parks, Pierce Township and New Richmond to build the Ohio River Trail through Clermont County.

    “The aim is to get all the way from downtown to New Richmond,” he said. “That’s for this part. On the other side, it will go from downtown to the Indiana border and on from there.”

    Ultimately the trail will connect Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois.

    The impetus behind the efforts is all focused on health. With connectivity between trails and communities, there are increased opportunities for passive and active physical activity, Caruso said. These trails also provide economic benefits with additional related development and tourism.

    Clermont County

    Last year a segment of the Clermont County bike trail was completed that extended the trail six miles from Williamsburg to Zagar Road in Batavia Township.

    This summer another portion of the trail will be completed extending it to Greenbriar Road in Batavia.

    Chris Clingman, director of the Clermont County Park District, said Short Summit Road, which connects to Zagar Road, will be paved up to Greenbriar Road. The extension will be about a mile.

    Greenbriar Road will be both accessible to both cyclists and motorists in what is referred to as shared use.

    Clingman said future plans for the Clermont County trail are to extend it to the William H. Harsha Lake Dam and the village of Batavia.

    The trail will be about 15 miles in length.

    Clingman said the paving and addition of signage should be completed in July or August.

    “People really like the Zagar Road section of the trail because is is through a wooded area (and) a scenic trip through the woods, he said. “(The trail) connects to a fairly large subdivision on Zagar Road (and) provides another recreational opportunity for the people living there.”

    The Milford Bike Trail and the Milford Trailhead are important assets for both economic-development and quality-of-life reasons, Milford Mayor Laurie Howland said.

    “These important aspects to the vitality of the city is why council made the decision in early 2015 to purchase the trailhead,” Howland said.

    “We needed to preserve our access to it.”

    Howland said the bike trail, which is part of the Little Miami Scenic Trail, is a great recreational resource for residents.

    “I, myself, probably run the trail three to four days a week during the spring and summer,” Howland said.

    “I know of other residents who moved to Milford due to the access to the trailhead.”

    The trail also brings in visitors.

    “We also get a lot of cyclists who come to the city, park, ride the trail then spend another part of their day visiting our shops and dining here,” Howland said.

    “Access to the trailhead is also a marketing tool that both real-estate agents and developers use when selling property.

    “Extension of the bike trial will only aid in the economic development for those communities along its route,” Howland said.

  • October 18, 2016 4:49 PM | Anonymous

    Source: WCPO Cincinnati

    Cincinnati is recognized for many things. Chili, baseball, goetta and Oktoberfest, to name a few.

    But lately the city’s commitment to green initiatives and environmental sustainability has begun to receive some national love as well.

    The Queen City is ranked No. 1 for nature centers and No. 2 for parks and playgrounds per capita among major cities. It’s been named one of the country’s best cities for an active lifestyle and recently the League of American Bicyclists cited Cincinnati’s growth in bike commuting the third fastest in America.

     “Cincinnati’s population is growing,” said Larry Falkin, director of the City of Cincinnati Office of Environment & Sustainability, “and some of our most sustainable neighborhoods are some of the fastest growing.”

    The city itself has seen its own green efforts working — Cincinnati has spent more than $20 million making city buildings more energy efficient, which saves more than $3 million worth of energy per year.

  • October 18, 2016 4:45 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Soapbox Cincinnati  

    Green Umbrella’s Tri-State Trails Initiative and the OKI Regional Council of Governments have collaborated to put bicyclists and pedestrians at the forefront of the region’s transportation policy.
    With an update to its 2040 Plan, OKI and its board of directors recently voted to unanimously increase the number of prioritized bike and pedestrian-related projects from just 3 to 17.
    What was once a $2.5 million project has now become a $191 million project, which Frank Henson, chair of Tri-State Trails and president of Queen City Bike, says is well worth it, as it will help elevate the region as a more walkable and bike-friendly city.

    “We applaud OKI for their leadership to include the voice of bicyclists and pedestrians in the 2040 Plan update,” Henson says.  “The Tri-State needs a comprehensive, active transportation network to remain economically competitive with peer regions.”
    While the new plan is significantly more expensive, the cost of implementing new trails, protected bike lanes, and even sidewalks, pales in comparison to the cost of a highway, and it serves a more inclusive population.
    “Our region needs more active transportation infrastructure to encourage new users to commute by walking or biking,” says Kristin Weiss, executive director at Green Umbrella. “Collectively, this can have a profound impact on air quality, congestion and public health.”

    Interact for Health, which also weighed in on the matter, is excited to see the updated plan as well, as public health and the drive to make Greater Cincinnati one of the healthiest regions in the country is of prime focus.

    “Physical activity is a key factor in a person’s overall health, and having access to a safe, robust trail system enables people to incorporate exercise into their daily routines,” says Megan Folkerth, program officer at Interact for Health. “Incorporating the trails system into OKI’s 2040 Plan paves the way for a healthier community for all of us in the future.”

    Do Good:

    • Go for a walk or bike ride to increase your activity level and overall health. 

    • Support or join organizations like Green Umbrella that work to advocate for active transportation options.

    • Connect with the organizations on Facebook: Green UmbrellaOKIInteract for Health.

  • October 18, 2016 4:40 PM | Anonymous

    Source: The River City News 

    For the first time in recent history, bicyclists and pedestrians have become a priority in the Greater Cincinnati region’s transportation policy, the organization Tri-State Trails said in a news release.

    This month, the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) board of directors unanimously approved the 4-year update to their 2040 Regional Transportation Plan. The update includes 17 prioritized bike and pedestrian related projects, worth an estimated $191 million. Previously, the 2040 Plan included only three prioritized bike and pedestrian projects equating approximately $2.5 million. The significant increase was due to a partnership between Green Umbrella’s Tri-State Trails initiative and OKI to elevate bicycle and pedestrian projects in the 2040 Plan, and an incredible request for more bike and pedestrian options during OKI’s public involvement process leading up to the June vote.

    “We applaud OKI for their leadership to include the voice of bicyclists and pedestrians in the 2040 Plan update,” said Frank Henson, Chair of Tri-State Trails and President of Queen City Bike. “The Tri-State needs a comprehensive active transportation network to remain economically competitive with peer regions.”

    Tri-State Trails participated in OKI’s community engagement process for the 2040 Plan by providing a recommendation of prioritized multi-use trails corridors from the Green Umbrella Regional Trails Plan. “We are most appreciative of their assistance and participation in the process to help us identify the most important bike and pedestrian projects in our region,” said Bob Koehler, OKI Deputy Executive Director, in a news release. “Organizations like Tri-State Trails are great advocates for people using the active transportation system.”

    Multi-use trails, on-road biking facilities like protected bike lanes, and sidewalks are a fraction of the costs of highways, and they serve a more inclusive user group, including those that do not have access to a car. “The updated 2040 Plan recognizes the growing demand we are seeing for more walkable and bike-friendly communities,” commented Kristin Weiss, Executive Director at Green Umbrella. “Our region needs more active transportation infrastructure to encourage new users to commute by walking or biking. Collectively, this can have a profound impact on air quality, congestion, and public health.”

    “Physical activity is a key factor in a person’s overall health, and having access to a safe, robust trail system enables people to incorporate exercise into their daily routines, said Megan Folkerth, program officer at Interact for Health. “Incorporating the trails system into OKI’s 2040 Plan paves the way for a healthier community for all of us in the future, and will help us make Greater Cincinnati one of the healthiest regions in the country.”

    OKI administers some of the largest transportation funding mechanisms available to local governments in the local region. The 2040 Regional Transportation Plan serves as a guiding document in OKI’s project review and scoring process for federal transportation funding and is updated every four years.

  • October 18, 2016 4:37 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Soapbox Cincinnati 

    Regional leaders and international experts will join together June 10 for the second annual Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit. This year’s event — a collaboration among local organizations from within a variety of sectors — is aimed at figuring out ways we can work together to reduce carbon emissions.
    Green Umbrella’s vision is to have the Greater Cincinnati region recognized as one of the top-10 most sustainable metro areas in the nation by 2020,” says Kristin Weiss, Executive Director of the nonprofit. “To do that, we need to be on the cutting edge of environmental sustainability and embrace the leap over incremental improvements. This Summit helps us achieve that.”

    Keynote speaker for this year’s event is Paul Hawken, whose latest book Project Drawdownprovides readers with 100 existing solutions to reverse climate change. Not only are the solutions credible, but they’re scalable on a global level and, regardless of their impact on the climate, are intrinsically beneficial to local communities and economies.
    Hawken’s talk fits well into this year’s theme of “Innovation and Collaboration.”

    One way Cincinnati can take an existing solution and work together to implement it in a unique way, for example, is through electric vehicles. The presenting organizations and sponsors for this year’s event have arranged for attendees to be able to test drive electric cars and access savings toward the purchase of one.
    “Electric vehicle adoption will help us reach our 2020 regional sustainability goal to reduce the consumption of gasoline and diesel as motor fuels by 20 percent,” Weiss says. “Our region is ripe for this, too, as we now have a comprehensive network of charging stations for electric vehicles, whereas at the beginning of last year we had zero fast charging stations.”
    An added perk for those with electric vehicles, according to Weiss, is free parking.
    “City of Cincinnati residents who are owners of electric vehicles will be able to park for free through the city’s All-Electric Vehicle Incentive Program,” she says. “It’s a model for other municipalities.”

  • August 15, 2016 4:38 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Soapbox    

    Greater Cincinnati’s environment dramatically impacts our quality of life. But that broad topic encompasses so many aspects that one organization would be hard pressed to address opportunities and challenges inherent in energy, waste reduction, transportation, land management, water, local food and outdoor recreation by itself. That made the sector a perfect candidate for one of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s five-year Collective Impact initiatives.
    Soapbox is exploring how these initiatives have affected a series of community-wide issues. They’re being addressed through the disciplined Collective Impact approach that assembles numerous players to collaborate toward a common vision, adopting measurable goals and work to reinforce one another’s efforts with the encouragement and oversight of “backbone” organizations.
    The backbone organization for environmental sustainability is Green Umbrella, with a broad goal of attaining recognition for our region as one of America’s top 10 sustainable metro areas by 2020. That’s ambitious, but partnering with two regional planning initiatives — the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Agenda 360 (now folded into the overall Chamber organization) and Skyward in Northern Kentucky — and more than 300 businesses, nonprofits and governmental agencies, Green Umbrella is tackling a broad array of issues through action teams focused on numerous programs and projects.

    Northside Farmers Market helps bring healthy food options to urban residents.
    Teams have established goals and metrics to determine progress toward various 2020 targets. One seeks to reduce total energy consumption in the built environment by 15 percent, while another works double the local production of renewable energy annually. A third pursues a 20 percent reduction in gasoline and diesel fuel use. A fourth team hopes to double the amount of fruits and vegetables sourced and consumed within the region, while a fifth works on ways to reduce disposed waste by 33 percent.
    Additional teams conceive ways to protect and celebrate streams, rivers and other water resources — including developing and now sponsoring the annual Ohio River Paddlefest extravaganza — and to increase participation in recreational and educational activities and events by 15 percent as well as boosting the local acreage of high quality green space by 8 percent.

    The Trail to Cleaner Air
    Air quality, transportation and trails go hand in hand. Green Umbrella Executive Director Kristin Weiss points to research indicating that Greater Cincinnati has more air pollution than the national average in every category.

    In particular, African Americans are disproportionately impacted by air pollution, especially in the urban core. Minorities constitute roughly 45 percent of the city of Cincinnati’s population but index much higher than whites in exposure to air pollution at home.

    “Our African-American population is concentrated in the urban center, where there is more traffic and congestion,” Weiss points out. “Our topography is such that we are located in a valley, which increases our rate for asthma, especially among minority communities.”
    Traffic congestion, reduced transit access and households without cars further compound the situation.
    “When we look at the share of jobs accessible via public transportation within a 90-minute commute one-way, it’s less than 35 percent,” Weiss says. “We need to look at how to get people to destinations, to jobs, to schools, to parks in a way that’s not contributing to air pollution.”
    So the Green Umbrella transportation action team is pursuing a regional trail network.
    “Our response is trees and trails,” Weiss says. “We want our communities to be more walkable and bike-friendly, with access to trails for exercise and transportation. We need a robust tree canopy to mitigate the effect of the air pollution.”
    The OKI regional council of governments asked Green Umbrella to help update its long-range transportation plan stretching out to 2040.
    “The previous update included just three projects worth about $2.5 million,” Weiss says. “Our update identified 17 planned bike and pedestrian projects worth about $191 million. That’s a 7,500 percent increase! People want more walkable and bike-friendly communities.
    “Without Green Umbrella, there would have been no coordination and no overall vision. Now our region has a master trail plan. We already have over 315 miles of existing trails, and another 1,000 total miles of trails have been proposed. Now people have that data and can make strategic decisions about projects to connect people and places faster. It’s a good example of Collective Impact.”
    A new plan focused on the urban center called Cincinnati Connects would create a 42-mile urban loop connecting 33 communities.
    “More than 240,000 people live within a mile of this network,” Weiss says. “The report’s economic study suggests it would be roughly a 3-to-1 return on investment.”
    The plan’s momentum is driven by cross-disciplinary engagement, made possible with funds from Interact for Health, a grant-maker supporting community-wide health initiatives. Groundwork Cincinnati Mill Creek manages the project, and partners include Cincinnati City and Hamilton County parks, Little Duck Creek Trail, Wasson Way, The Ohio River Way, Ohio River Trail West as well as businesses such as Kolar Design and Human Nature landscape architects.

    (Read a full Q&A with Kristin Weiss in the right-hand column of this page.)
    Connections for Better Lives
    Wade Johnston is Green Umbrella’s regional trails coordinator. He suggests that the Mill Creek Greenway Trail will improve several impoverished neighborhoods.
    “A couple of sections are built,” he says. “One in Northside connects from South Cumminsville all the way to Spring Grove Village. The vision is to connect from Downtown near Lower Price Hill to all the way north out of Hamilton County. It’s a 10-foot-wide multi-use trail that can accommodate bikes and walking.”
    Such a trail through low-income neighborhoods will positively affect residents’ lives.
    “Those communities have located there because that’s where affordable housing is found,” Johnston explains. “Having a trail to connect them to Downtown and the West End and other industrial areas will provide opportunities to get to work. Having a bike is more accessible than a car and generally more convenient than a bus for a short distance.”

    Groundwork Cincinnati employs local teens to help restore the Mill Creek and other urban greenways. 

    Johnston mentions environmental restoration along the Mill Creek Corridor, work being carried out by Groundwork Cincinnati, part of an international network of trusts focused on environmental issues that improve the quality of life, especially for minority and low-income residents.
    Tanner Yess, Groundwork’s youth leader, fieldwork manager and trail coordinator, is deeply involved in the restoration, largely carried out by about 1,000 teens annually that he supervises. They’re not just labor.
    “They also learn about sustainability,” Yess explains, “and about the connection to conservation as a whole — not just the Mill Creek but to the Ohio River, the Mississippi and the ocean. They participate on learning projects in reforestation, planting perennials like milkweed, removing invasive species and maintaining green structures.”
    Yess also manages an in-depth summer youth employment program.
    “With the help of the City of Cincinnati we employ teens for local cleaning projects,” he says. “They get more in-depth restoration experience and learn about conservation and sustainability. Some of them travel to regional preserves and national parks.”
    Safer Routes for School Kids
    As part of this web of interconnected projects related to traversing urban environments, one with special impact on children in troubled neighborhoods is the “Walking School Bus,” a Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) program spearheaded by one-time banker Carmen Burks.
    A federally funded “Safe Routes to School” study caught her interest a decade ago. It revealed that Cincinnati had numerous children walking to school because busing is provided only if they live more than a mile from the school building. CPS has approximately 14,000 students in elementary schools, and about 45 percent don’t need or have access to busing.

    When the study was overlaid with crime mapping, a light bulb went off.
    “The one-mile walk that some kids take,” Burks realized, “meant that they were potentially facing hazards.”
    She became an involved volunteer and eventually a program director.
    “Everyone is entitled to a public education,” she points out, “but there isn’t equity in that process. How could we make sure it becomes equitable and, regardless of where you live or where you’re at on that socio-economic status, your kid can get to school to get an education?”
    Her response: the “Walking School Bus” with mapped routes and trained “conductors” to walk approximately 10 kids to and from school. Adults receive meaningful training and are paid a stipend, supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice. (The funding for 2016-2017 has stalled, but Burks is confident it will be restored so she can expand her corps of 75 conductors.)
    Burks is a leader of Green Umbrella’s transportation action team. It’s enabled her to connect with the Cincinnati Health Department and an organization dedicated to healthy outdoor activities for kids, Leave No Child Inside.
    “Being out in nature does something for kids. It connects them with nature,” she says. “Safety is certainly an issue, but kids don’t play outside anymore. We had Cincinnati Parks come and teach about local trees and vegetation.”
    That’s the kind of connection the Collective Impact initiative supports.
    “I’ve traveled around the country a lot and seen what happens in other communities,” Burks says. “The great thing about Green Umbrella is the Collective Impact model. Just because your focus is on transportation doesn’t mean you don’t have an impact on safety or on schools. More organizations like Green Umbrella would make our country a better place.”

    Greening the Food Deserts
    Another focus area for Green Umbrella is food, especially “food deserts,” where low-income populations have very little access to grocery stores.
    “We want to get fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to our residents,” Weiss says. “We do that through our Food Policy Council, and our local food action team has a campaign asking people to spend 10 percent of their food budget on local food. That would drive $56 million into our local economy.”
    The council came together in October 2014 with a grant from Interact for Health. Today, 40 representatives from organizations in the 10-county region come together regularly to focus on healthy food access and consumption from a policy standpoint. They address distribution and procurement, food production and land use as well as community assessment, planning and zoning.
    To create equity and better health, Green Umbrella is the fiscal sponsor for a new program called Produce Perks. It’s a dollar-for-dollar incentive program offering up to an additional $10 in value for SNAP participants (the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program once called “food stamps”). It’s available at farmers markets across the region.

    Ana Bird heads the year-round Northside Farmers Market, operating 4-7 p.m. every Wednesday from May through October in Hoffner Park. It’s indoors at North Church, 4222 Hamilton Ave., when necessary.

    For 2016 there have been 40 vendors selling produce, fruit, bread, cheese, pastries, jams, meats, gluten-free baked goods, spices, chocolates, coffees and more. Two-thirds of visitors are from Northside, but lots of others from Finneytown to Northern Kentucky make it a regular stop.
    Bird has enhanced Produce Perks with a “Budget Recipe Menu Plan” in partnership with the Rainbow Choice Food Pantry operated by Churches Active in Northside (CAIN). They teach SNAP participants how to spend $40, enhanced by the $10 supplement from Produce Perks, and create five dinners for four people.

    With the support of a grant from Green Umbrella’s Cincy Good Food Fund this year, the market now provides a free shuttle service around the 45223 ZIP code to enhance access. The grant also makes possible cooking classes for kids and adults with a special emphasis on preparing seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables.
    Bird has established a partnership with the Apple Street Market Cooperative, working to bring back a grocery store to Northside sometime in 2017. Apple Street presently has a booth at the market to sell items not grown locally as well as packaged goods like canned beans and rice.

    “Green Umbrella does a really great job, even beyond Produce Perks,” Bird says. “The food action team brings together people and ideas. It gives us networking opportunities with other farmers markets and sources for local foods. They really are an ‘umbrella.’ Their name says it all — a connector for people to meet with the food action team, join forces, learn what’s going on.”
    That’s the point of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Collective Impact initiatives: concerted, focused, broadly supported efforts that make a difference in Greater Cincinnati.
    This is Part 3 of a Soapbox series of reports exploring how Collective Impact is changing and improving Greater Cincinnati, with future reports to come on Sept. 20 and Oct. 18. Support for this "Collective Impact" series is provided by The Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

  • May 30, 2016 4:45 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Journal News 


    Great Miami River Recreation Trail: This 75-mile trail has a few missing links between Hamilton and Middletown; and between Middletown and Franklin, but it stretches from Hamilton and into the Dayton area bike trails and further north to Piqua.

    Little Miami Scenic Trail: The longest trail in the U.S. at 76 miles stretching from Springfield to Newtown, Ohio. The trail will be extended to connect with the Ohio River Trail.

    Ohio River Trail: Under development with some sections completed in downtown Cincinnati. When completed it will be 23 miles long stretching from Coney Island to Sayler Park.

    Queen City-South Mill Creek Greenway Trail: Under development with the section between Winton Road to the Mill Creek Bridge completed. The trail will eventually connect the Hamilton County Fairgrounds in Carthage to the Cincinnati Riverfont Park and the Ohio River Trail.

    A feasibility study done in 2002 by a group of Butler and Warren county communities is getting some new attention again.

    Tri-State Trails, a non-profit organization that focuses on developing multi-use trails throughout southwest Ohio, convened a meeting earlier this month to see where area communities were on trying to link the two main bike trails in the region.

    “This meeting was to better understand what the priorities are in the communities and develop action steps to look at these corridors of the 2002 plan,” said Wade Johnston, regional trails coordinator for Tri-State Trails. “We want to work with local communities to take the next step and maybe apply for funding.”

    In 2002, the Miami 2 Miami Connection was proposed as an 84-mile network of interconnecting bike trails made up of 10-feet wide trails; 5-feet wide bike lanes on roadways and signed shared roadways to connect the Great Miami River Recreation Bike Trail to the Little Miami Scenic Trail. The two trails already link into bike trail systems in Dayton and Cincinnati areas.

    John Heilman was part of the 2002 study. He said that the Miami 2 Miami connection and the missing links along the Great Miami River Recreation Bike Trail were the top projects that have yet to be completed. Heilman said the study recommended roads with bike lanes; separated paths; shared roads with signs; and future trails.

    He said that the study then was a guide to connect both trails via two routes, a north and a south route from the Little Miami trail in Warren County and across Butler County to the Great Miami River trail.

    The north route would have started at Mason-Morrow-Millgrove Road to Bethany Road in Warren County and continue east into Butler County through other trails and roads to reach the Great Miami River trail. The south route would have gone from the Kings Island area to Western Row and continue east on Tylersville Road. The trail would use the former Miami-Erie Canal right of way and other roads as it continued into Hamilton.

    “Off road trails are what’s needed to get families out there,” said Matt Latham of MetroParks. “It takes a certain amount of courage to ride in bike lanes

    Since 2002, a number of communities have been developing their own trails and are looking for ways to extend and interconnect them with other trails. A number of agencies such as MetroParks of Butler County and the Miami Conservancy District have also acquired land and right of way easements to develop other trails.

    Some communities have bike paths that already go east and west that create a number of rungs between the Great and Little Miami rivers. Liberty and West Chester Twps. have some segments and there are proposed segments between Mason and Franklin as well as Monroe to Lebanon.

    Matt Obringer, a Warren County planner, suggested that communities “stitch a number of the smaller trails that would connect to the larger trails” and develop destination points.

    Hamilton Councilman Rob Wile said there would be an advantage to finishing the original southern route.

    “There’s a lot of right of way already owned by MCD and MetroParks and that could easily connect to Joyce Park which has facilities,” he said. “Tri-State Trails has done a good job of bringing people together. I’m also glad to see there are 18 or so (bike path) projects on the 2040 plan.”

    The communities and Tri-State Trails are planning a follow-up meeting to continue the conversation and determine future action steps.

    “It’s a big vision and everyone agrees it needs connected,” Johnston said.

  • May 04, 2016 1:05 PM | Anonymous


    Forty-six years ago, the first Earth Day was held to unite efforts around the world to create a healthier and more sustainable environment for everyone. While we can look back at the great strides that have been made since that day, it’s clear there is still much work left to do – and it’s work that requires something from each of us.

    At Green Umbrella, the region’s environmental sustainability alliance, we’re working daily to unite businesses, nonprofits, local governments, universities and individuals in a collective effort to make Greater Cincinnati one of the most sustainable U.S. metro areas by 2020. Our Action Teams tackle key topics – including water, land, outdoor recreation, food, waste, transportation and energy – to reach our region’s sustainability goals.

    This environmental work has the benefits of improving the health of our residents while creating thriving communities in which to live, work and play. Creating solutions like bike and pedestrian-friendly communities can help us be healthier, avoid chronic diseases like diabetes, and breathe cleaner air. Those same solutions also help us attract new businesses and employees who want to live here.

    We’re making progress. With over 300 partners to date, we are accomplishing more together, and faster. The Cincinnati region is top-rated for our parks and growth in bicycle commuting. We also now have Red Bike, Tri-State Trails and a master trail plan, Taking Root – our region’s tree planting campaign, the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council,, and a series of free and well-attended community events that get our region outdoors and into nature.

    There’s still work to do, and we need your help. We’re asking you to find one thing you can do locally this month from the list below. To get started or become a member, visit

    1. Eat Local: Take the Local Food Pledge to shift 10 percent of your food budget to locally grown food.

    2. Get Outdoors: Find Tristate area events including the free Opening Day on the Trails Challenge.

    3. Go Solar: Get a free assessment and see if your home is solar ready.

    4. Select Native Plants: When you plant, choose native trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses.

    5. Become a Transit-Friendly Destination: Apply for your workplace or business to become a certified Transit-Friendly Destination.

    6. Recycle: Help reduce landfilled paper and cardboard, which is 67 percent of the waste stream for an average office.

    7. Choose Active Transportation: Bike, walk or run, especially for errands within 2 miles.

    8. Know Your Watershed: Volunteer for citizen water quality monitoring and watershed cleanup events.

    9. Plant a Tree: Join our region’s effort to plant 2 million trees by 2020.

    10. Plan to Attend: Learn how we can build a more environmentally sustainable and economically vibrant region at the June 10 Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit.

    One person, one day, one thing. Together we can make the Cincinnati region a healthy and sustainable place to live, work, play – and call home.

    Kristin Weiss is executive director of Green Umbrella.

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