Green Umbrella in the News

  • April 20, 2016 5:25 PM | Anonymous
    Source: City Beat

    This year marks the 46th-annual Earth Day celebration, which started in the United States in the spring of 1970. The holiday has since become an international movement aimed at building a healthy, sustainable environment, addressing climate change and protecting the Earth for future generations.
    Locally, the nonprofit Green Umbrella, the region’s environmental sustainability alliance, is working with businesses, universities, individuals and local governments — including the city of Cincinnati’s Office of Environment & Sustainability — to make Greater Cincinnati one of the most sustainable U.S. cities by 2020. Oliver Kroner, sustainability coordinator for the city, helps lead local government and the community toward the practice of good environmental stewardship. “Broadly speaking, my role is to identify and help implement measures that improve our environment, our economy and quality of life for Cincinnati residents,” Kroner says. Founded in 1993 as the Office of Environmental Management, the scope of Cincinnati’s environmental program has grown to include sustainability — hence the name change — and is now active in air quality, climate protection, energy management, environmental justice, urban agriculture, recycling and waste reduction. At the moment, I am focused on developing a ‘dashboard’ to track progress on the 60-plus sustainability initiatives established in the Green Cincinnati Plan,” Kroner says. “The plan lays out goals for everything from energy to food, transportation, water, land use, etc. The dashboard will help the city decide where to invest energy and resources.” Established in 2008 and reworked in 2013, the Green Cincinnati Plan, developed in partnership with Green Umbrella, is considered a roadmap of recommendations to make the city a leader in addressing global climate change, as well as a healthier place to live.  The five-year 2013 update called for revisions to renewable energy recommendations and a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below the 2006 levels by the year 2028, according to Kroner. “Cincinnati is now among only a few cities in the country that made a commitment to 100-percent renewable energy,” Kroner says. “We now have solar installed on 24 city facilities around town.”

    The city of Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance have also teamed up to offer incentives to homeowners to help them move to solar power; based on the size of the solar system you install, you can earn up to $1,500. (Learn more about the rules for installation credits at greatercea.org.) The 2013 Green Cincinnati Plan also re-energized a focus on bicycle transportation, helping lead to the creation of Red Bike in 2014. “In the last year, of the top 100 cities, Cincinnati was ranked No. 3 in fastest bike-commuting growth, according to the League of American Bicyclists,” says Kristin Weiss, executive director of Green Umbrella, a Red Bike partner. “We’re really excited about this because bike commuting helps us reach our regional sustainability goals around reduced gasoline consumption and increased participation in activities that get people outdoors.” Another eco update both Green Umbrella and the city are touting is the net-zero District 3 Police station headquarters.  “Not only is the building beautiful, but it uses cutting-edge technologies like geothermal and solar to generate more energy than the station consumes,” Kroner says. And when asked what he’s currently most excited about, Kroner says, “poop!” We are getting ready to make some major advancements in how we handle the city’s sewer sludge,” he says. “The Metropolitan Sewer District has presented a forward-thinking plan to install a biodigester to use microbes to convert the region’s sewer sludge into energy and fertilizer. From a cost perspective, a sustainability perspective and a quality-of-life perspective, biodigestion would be a major step forward.”
  • April 20, 2016 2:18 PM | Anonymous

    Source: City Beat

    The theme of this year’s Green Issue — our annual and fully recyclable print edition dedicated to exploring local eco issues and advances — is “Small Steps, Big Change.” Every year around Earth Day, we take a second to evaluate our impact and ask a couple of questions like, “What’s my carbon footprint and how can I reduce it?” “Should I be biking more?” and “Why isn’t my compost working?”  We also take a second to notice the people in our community working to make Cincinnati a healthier and more sustainable place to live, like those highlighted in the following articles:
    • Starting Small: Cincinnati's first tiny living project aims to create affordable and sustainable urban housing
    • Pocked-Sized Power: Water-purifying packets distributed by a local nonprofit are helping rural Kenyans affected by HIV/AIDS
    • On-Point Natural Nails: OTR's Spruce nail salon offers eco-friendly services and modern manicures for conscious consumers
    • Sustainable Cincinnati: City moving forward with proposed greening goals
    • Go Green: Sustainable events in Cincinnati and beyond
    But if you’re ready to quit reading now and just want all this distilled down to a Top 10, you’re in luck, because Kristin Weiss, executive director of local sustainability alliance Green Umbrella, gave us the organization’s top things you can do right now to help make Greater Cincinnati one of the most sustainable cities in America by 2020.


    Green  Umbrella's Top 10 Tips 

    Eat Local: Take the Local Food Pledge to shift 10 percent of your food budget to locally grown food. According to Weiss, if just 10 percent of Greater Cincinnati pledges to shift 10 percent of their food budget to locally produced food, it will generate more than $52 million for the local economy. “For the average family, taking the pledge means shifting $12 a week to local food,” she says. “Buying locally grown fruits and vegetables sustains local farmers, tastes better and is more nutrient-dense and requires less energy to get to you.” Get Outdoors: Green Umbrella partner meetmeoutdoors.com helps connect users with outdoor events and activities. You can also check out our green listings on page 20. Go Solar: Get a free assessment and see if your home is solar-ready. Select Native Plants: When you plant, choose native trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses. Become a Transit-Friendly Destination: Apply for your workplace or business to become a certified Transit-Friendly Destination.  Recycle: Help reduce landfilled paper and cardboard, which is 67 percent of the waste stream for an average office.  Choose Active Transportation: Bike, walk or run, especially for errands within two miles. Know Your Watershed: Volunteer for citizen water-quality monitoring and watershed cleanup events. Plant a Tree: Join the region’s effort to plant 2 million trees by 2020.  Plan to Attend: Learn how to build a more environmentally sustainable and economically vibrant region at the Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit on June 10. (Learn more about the summit at greenumbrella.org.)
  • April 19, 2016 2:28 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Soapbox Media

    Green Umbrella’s 
    Local Food Action Team, the Central Ohio River Valley Local Food Guide and the Northside Farmers Market have teamed up to inspire individuals to eat local, an idea the community will both promote and celebrate at “Eat, Shift, Party LOCAL” April 20.
     
    Green Umbrella will launch a campaign at the free event encouraging individuals to pledge a 10 percent shift in their food budgets.
     
    “If 10 percent of our Greater Cincinnati population pledges to shift just 10 percent of their food budget to locally produced food, it will infuse over $52 million into our local economy,” Green Umbrella Executive Director Kristin Weiss says.
     
    In addition to building the local economy, eating local promotes good health, tastes better, allows local families to feel and be supported and preserves open green space, according to Green Umbrella’s Top 5 Reasons to Eat Local. It’s also affordable and more doable than you might think.
     
    “For the average family, taking the shift means spending only $12 a week on local food,” says Marian Dickinson, local food advocate with Green Umbrella.
     
    The Central Ohio River Valley Local Food Guide will release its 2016 publication of local food directories at the event, educating eaters and growers on how to promote a more vibrant local food economy, and festivities will take place within the setting of the Northside Famers Market at North Presbyterian Church, so individuals know of at least one place to return to for local products after pledging their 10 percent shifts.
     
    In 2016, specifically, the Farmers Market — a year-round effort — is promoting its Get Local Food Challenge, which features a different local item each month. Cooking classes for both children and adults are also offered throughout the year to encourage patrons to buy local but to also feel empowered when preparing food.
     
    All parties involved are working collectively to direct people’s attention toward locally sourced products, and Green Umbrella is making it easy to follow-through after pledging by distributing a monthly newsletter with tips, recipes and updates on the local scene.
     
    “It’s a decision you can feel good about,” Dickinson says. 

    Do Good: 

    • Plan to attend Eat, Shift, Party, LOCAL at 5-7 p.m. April 20 at North Presbyterian Church

    • Make the pledge.

    • Check out other available resources for eating local

  • April 16, 2016 4:49 PM | Anonymous

    Source: WLTW

    Check out the link below to see a video of GU hosting the trail challenge. 


  • April 15, 2016 4:53 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Urban Cincy  

    Tri-State Trails is aiming to encourage the public to get outdoors with the Opening Day on the Trails Challenge – a seven week series of hikes, group bike rides, and other events on trails and in parks throughout the Cincinnati region.

    The challenge starts with an event at Sawyer Point from 12pm to 5pm on Saturday, April 16, which is also Earth Day.

    The Opening Day on the Trails Challenge is part of a national kickoff by the Rails-to-Trail Conservancy to promote the spring outdoor season. Running from mid-April to early June, the challenge overlaps with National Bike Month in May.

    Information on the challenge can be found online at MeetMeOutdoors.com. Participants can register on the website, and sign up to receive email newsletters and social media alerts. A Trails Challenge Passport is also available for download. To participate, individuals and families attend group events, which are listed on a schedule included with the passport. Attendance at activities is logged on the passport, and those who attend at least one event are eligible to win a prize.

    Organizers say that the challenge will conclude with an award ceremony on National Trails Day on June 4 at the Purple People Bridge. Participants who complete the challenge will receive a Nalgene water bottle and other items. A raffle will also be held to award prizes, donated by local businesses and Cincy Red Bike, to registered participants.

    Tri-State Trails, a program of Green Umbrella, is the local host of the challenge, and is hoping it will encourage more people to get out and explore the region’s network of bike paths and trails.

    Wade Johnston, Regional Trails Coordinator for Tri-State Trails, sees the event as an opportunity to showcase not only the many multimodal trails in the Cincinnati region, but also the hiking and mountain biking trails. Tri-State Trails has been told by the Rails to Trails Conservancy that the Challenge in the Cincinnati region is the largest and longest program of any opening day trail event in the United States.

    Johnston told UrbanCincy that public support and usage of the region’s trail system is increasing, citing the Cincinnati Connects plan, and efforts to expand the Mill Creek GreenwayOhio River Trail, and Wasson Way.

    The Opening Day on the Trails event is supported by a $25,000 grant from Interact for Health. While this is the first year for this event in Cincinnati, it is intended to be an annual event in the future.

    Green Umbrella’s Outdoor Event Series will continue through the summer with the Kids Outdoor Adventure Expo on July 22 at Winton Woods Harbor, and the Great Outdoor Weekend on September 24 and 25 at a variety of locations around the Cincinnati area.

  • April 15, 2016 4:51 PM | Anonymous

    Source: WHIO  

    It’s the unofficial “Opening Day” Saturday for bike trails across the country.

    Locally, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is hosting events across the Miami Valley to celebrate the kick-off of biking and walking trails for the spring and summer season.

    Different opening day events will be held in Yellow Springs, Xenia, Dayton, Springfield and Cincinnati.

    And this weekend will be the perfect weather for getting outside, said StormCenter 7 Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini. High temperatures will reach the low 70s on Saturday, and it will remain dry this weekend.

    Get your up-to-date weather forecast by downloading the free StormCenter 7 weather app.

    Opening day bike trail events:

    • 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Dayton Performance Bicycles, 4466 Indian Ripple Road, Dayton. Join for a neighborhood ride for all skill levels. The group will start and finish as a unit. Brunch-style snacks and refreshments after the ride, as well as a bicycle maintenance clinic and bicycle bingo.
    • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Yellow Springs Station, 101 Dayton St., and John Bryan Community Center, 100 Dayton St. There will be trail rides, bike fix and safety check stations and a kids bike challenge
    • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Un Mundo Cafe/Heritage Center Trailhead, 117 S. Fountain Ave., Springfield. Join Bike Springfield in welcoming trail users. Maps and local trail information available. 
    • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Xenia Station Trail Hub, 150 S. Miami Ave. Join the Friends of Xenia Station for Opening Day activities. We will have maps and trail information available for the five trails that converge at Xenia Station.
    • Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at Sawyer Point Park, 705 E. Pete Rose Way, Cincinnati. The region’s first Opening Day on the Trails Challenge will kick-off at the annual Earth Day celebration at Sawyer Point.


  • April 13, 2016 5:03 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Curiosity Magazine   

    On some of the nastiest, most wretched mornings of the past 25 years, Frank Henson set off to work not in the comfort of a car, but on his bicycle. Somewhere in the 8-mile stretch between his neighborhood of Madisonville and downtown Cincinnati, Henson was that guy riding along on two wheels — in a suit and tie. Crazy, right?

    Not exactly. Henson and his wife, Mary Messman, both tax professionals, gave up their car to encourage a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. Henson was 40 then, the age, as he puts it, when certain afflictions like high blood pressure and cholesterol start to rear their ugly heads. But when he started riding back and forth to work (the trip home involved a 275-foot climb in elevation), he was able to lose weight and stop medicating.

    As Henson found out, the benefits of biking and walking are readily apparent in terms of personal health and reduced exhaust emissions into the atmosphere. But biking and walking can also play a significant role in improving a local economy.

    A 2012 University of Cincinnati study found that property values along the 75-mile Little Miami Scenic Trail commanded a $9,000 premium because of the proximity to the biking and walking path. Another study out of Ohio found that property values near trails remained constant through the last recession. In addition, new jobs are created — in tourism-related industries, construction, and maintenance.

    But in order to reap the many benefits of these biking and walking trails, you have to actually have them first, and in Cincinnati, that’s where the “backbone organization” called Green Umbrella comes into play.

    Green Umbrella founders noticed that there were hundreds of small nonprofits, governmental organizations, and businesses advocating for environmental sustainability in the region, but each one operated independently. Instead of joining forces, these groups sometimes competed for funding and sometimes wasted opportunities to strengthen each other’s efforts.

    What if, the founders wondered, they could create a cross-sector umbrella group to bring together organizations to advance shared environmental goals? Partnering with like-minded organizations in Kentucky and Ohio, Green Umbrella has helped unite more than 200 nonprofits, businesses, educational institutions, and governmental entities into one powerful, collaborative force that simply gets things done.

    Fifth Third Bank has been a strong supporter of Green Umbrella’s mission through board engagement and corporate sponsorship. The partnership seemed like a natural fit for the bank due to their ongoing commitment to eco-innovation, sustainability, and efficiency. The company now has 27 LEED-certified bank branches and roughly 1,000 of its financial centers have recycling programs. In the bank’s Madisonville campus in Cincinnati, there’s even a place to compost lunch leftovers.

    Supporting Green Umbrella helps extend the bank’s green initiatives into the communities. Scott Hassell, the bank’s director for environmental affairs, serves as Fifth Third’s liaison to, as well as board president of, Green Umbrella. “It’s all about how we can change behavior and move the whole region forward,” Hassell says of the collective group’s mission.

    The bank’s relationship with Green Umbrella may be its most outward-facing environmental initiative yet. The demand for Green Umbrella’s leadership goes beyond transportation. Its action teams are also involved in energy, land, waste reduction, and watershed issues, among others.

    Kristin Weiss, Green Umbrella’s executive director, says that the support and partnership Fifth Third Bank provides is key to the organization’s work. “The commitment from Fifth Third for our organization is an incredible example of great nonprofit board engagement,” Weiss says. “Having Scott as our board chair has really helped guide the strategic priorities and partner-ships for our organization in a big way.”

    Currently, Green Umbrella and its partners are working to create a seamless commute into downtown Cincinnati and around town that will require morphing some 20 scattered miles of biking and walking trails into a connected, 42-mile urban loop, according to a trail-connectivity study called Cincinnati Connects. The study found that there will be 242,000 people living within one mile of these trails, with a projected economic benefit of $43.5 million. The ultimate hope: hundreds of miles of connected trails to supply Frank Henson and his cycling peers with endless hours of enjoyment.

  • April 13, 2016 4:56 PM | Anonymous

    Source: WVXU 

    The first Earth Day in the U.S. was 46 years ago on April 22, 1970. It's considered the birth date of the modern environmental movement. Today, Earth Day is a worldwide event to celebrate the earth and raise awareness of environmental issues.

    Joining us with a look at the history of Earth Day, the progress made since the first one and local plans for marking the day are Secretary of the Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition, ER Beach; Green Umbrella Executive Director Kristin Weiss; and Albert Sigman with Cleanlites Recycling.

    The Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition will host the 46th Cincinnati Earth Day Celebration on Saturday April 16 at Sawyer Point from Noon- 5 p.m. The event is free, for more information click here.

    For information on Earth Day events at the Cincinnati Nature Center, click here.

    Fifty West Brewing Company, 50 West Cycling Company and Great Parks of Hamilton County will hold an Early Earth Day Trail Clean Up on Sunday, April 17 starting at 10 a.m. to help clean up a portion of the Little Miami Scenic Trail near the corner of Wooster Pike and Newtown Road. For more information click here


  • April 01, 2016 5:06 PM | Anonymous

    Source: NKY Family  

    As the weather gets nicer and Daylight Savings time returns, thoughts naturally turn to the great outdoors and opportunities to run, bike, play sports or simply go for a walk.
     
    And what better place is there to enjoy those outdoor activities in Northern Kentucky than a spot along the Ohio River? It’s hard to beat those views of downtown Cincinnati and surrounding hills and your access to restaurants, shops and other amenities in the riverfront towns.
     
    Those towns continue working to better connect their population centers and business districts with the Ohio River (and the Licking River), while a long-term effort to connect the towns with each other via the Riverfront Commons walking/biking trail continues as well. City and regional leaders tout the investments in connectivity a win-win for all of NKY.
     
    “We believe that enhanced public spaces and interaction with the rivers will create a sense of pride for each riverfront community and stimulate the local economy,” says Wade Johnston, Regional Trails Coordinator of Tri-State Trails for Green Umbrella, which is overseeing creation of a connected network of multi-use trails throughout the tristate region.
     
    Johnston says a key to successful development along NKY’s riverfront is creating public spaces that can accommodate community events and connect pedestrians and bike riders to surrounding residential areas.
     
    “From an economic perspective, pedestrians and cyclists are more likely to stop in a storefront and spend money, compared to a person driving by at 35 or 45 mph,” he says. “Ultimately, it benefits NKY to make the urban areas walkable and attractive to residents so more people choose to live, work and play here.”
     
    Local leaders clearly see the benefits of a connected riverfront.
     
    “Bellevue would wither and die if we weren’t connected with our neighboring communities,” Bellevue City Councilman Ryan Salzman says. “We need to keep these arteries open and the blood flowing for economic development. And connections like Riverfront Commons send a clear message to developers that we’re open to working together to get things done.”
     
    Covington City Manager Larry Klein agrees with Riverfront Commons’ connectivity goals.
     
    “We don’t want to compete with what’s across, down or up the river, we want to add to it,” Klein says. “By working collaboratively we can leverage resources between cities and states, increasing the scale of individual projects and creating a unique regional asset that’s on par with any in the country.”
     
     
    Riverfront Commons starts filling in gaps
     
    Southbank Partners has taken the lead in fulfilling a vision for one paved walking/biking trail connecting Ludlow on the western riverfront all the way to Dayton and Ft. Thomas in the east. Small sections already exist on the Newport and Dayton floodwalls, but the next few months will see lots of activity to start filling in the gaps.
     
    Southbank Partners President Jack Moreland says one of the first things people will notice is new signage touting “River Commons: Where It All Flows Together.” Signs have been fabricated and are being given to each city to use as they see fit, he says; Bellevue is the first with specific plans to deploy them this summer.
     
    “It’s an attempt to roll out the Riverfront Commons brand before we really have a finished trail,” Moreland says, noting the full 11-mile vision remains years away from completion. “The signs have a unified Riverfront Commons theme and logo but allow each city to personalize them to highlight what they want to promote.”
     
    Here’s a rundown of activity expected in the near future around building out and filling in the Riverfront Commons vision (moving west to east):
     
    • Ludlow: Moreland says that phases 1 and 2 of the trail extension into Ludlow from its Covington border are fully funded and ready to be bid for design and construction. The trail will interact with Memorial Park and Ludlow High School and connect with designated feeder streets to take walkers and bikers up the hill into Devou Park.
     
    • Covington: The city received federal and state grants last Fall to help fund a $10 million riverfront transformation, which includes connections to Riverfront Commons. See more details below under “Covington banking on ripple effect.”
     
    • Newport: The most visible construction activity on the NKY riverfront might be where Aqua on the Levee and Hampton Inn & Suites are making progress at either side of Newport on the Levee. In the same area, work begins this summer on small bridges to connect the Taylor Southgate Bridge to existing floodwall trails on both sides, allowing walkers and bikers direct access to cross the river into Cincinnati.
     
    Work also begins this summer to continue Riverfront Commons east into Bellevue by creating a paved trail along the floodwall side of Dave Cowens Drive (Route 8) under I-471. It would end in front of Joe’s Crab Shack, where Newport is finalizing plans to construct the new Taylor Creek Overlook Park.
     
    Moreland says NKY’s most important project, however, might be along the Licking River in Newport’s west end, where construction continues to extend Route 9 to the downtown riverfront. The massive project is opening 22 acres along the Licking for development, including the old Newport Steel facility and the proposed Ovation mixed use development where the Licking meets the Ohio.
     
    Completion of the full Route 9 extension is expected by Fall 2017.
     
    • Bellevue: Much of the city’s summer activity — including concerts and festivals — will happen at its riverfront park, recently renamed Thomas J. Wiethorn Memorial Beach Park. Bellevue will use the new Riverfront Commons signage to designate an interim walking/biking path along Fairfield Avenue (Route 8) and down Ward Avenue to the park. A Cincy Red Bike station is being installed at Fairfield and Ward to help encourage activity.
     
    “It’s not the ideal long-term plan to put cyclists on Fairfield Avenue with cars, but we just want to get going with the Riverfront Commons concept,” Salzman says, noting that Bellevue’s riverfront — which unlike its neighboring cities doesn’t have a floodwall — would need to be built up in the future to support a free-standing trail.
     
    • Dayton: Construction is underway on the first homes in the massive Manhattan Harbour project on Dayton’s riverfront, where the existing floodwall trail would have multiple connections. State funding has been secured to upgrade and fill in a new one-mile trail section.
     
    • Ft. Thomas and further east: Moreland says Riverfront Commons officially ends at the eastern edge of Dayton, but he sees an opportunity to extend the trail connections another few miles.
     
    The national Rails-to-Trails movement has created thousands of miles of walking/biking paths along abandoned railroad lines, but now a Rails-With-Trails push is carving public paths along active railroad lines with appropriate safety fencing and separation. Moreland says CSX Railroad now uses just one track along the Ohio River, having dropped the second one, which could allow Riverfront Commons to be extended east along Ft. Thomas’ riverfront and under I-275 all the way to Pendery Sports Park in Silver Grove.
     
     
    Covington banking on 'ripple effect'
     
    City officials are considering a variety of riverfront options while awaiting U.S. Army Corp of Engineers approval for their initial stabilization and infrastructure improvement plans. Work on the first phase — from Madison Avenue to Crescent Avenue (Route 8) — starts this summer to build a large plaza with walking/biking paths as part of Riverfront Commons as well as water access for kayaking.
     
    Other amenities could offer interactive human-scale components such as water features, public art, food truck plazas and hands-on recreation. The city will need other funding, including grants and private donors, to build the more creative and ambitious options being discussed.
     
    “Excellent outdoor public spaces have a ripple effect, leading to an increased property values in the city and making it more attractive for additional investment,” Klein says. “The link between recreational and cultural amenities and economic development is consistently demonstrated in the great cities worldwide. It’s important that Covington recognizes and acts on that fact by investing in public spaces.”
     
    Covington has also announced two other high-profile outdoor projects. The first is replacement of the golf course clubhouse in Devou Park, a $5.25 million project funded by Devou Park Trust and Drees Pavilion. The new 12,000-square-foot clubhouse will serve more than just golfers, housing a cafe with outdoor seating, bike rentals and a park ranger station; completion is expected by Spring 2017.
     
    The other project is Electric Alley, which will be converted to a walking and biking path between Fifth and Sixth Streets parallel to Madison and Scott. The alley runs through Gateway Community and Technical College’s downtown campus in a growing area with retail shops, businesses, restaurants and the Kenton County Public Library.
     
    The alley conversion is being funded by a $1 million “transportation alternatives” grant from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. A construction timeline will be developed once the project is sent out for bids.

  • March 23, 2016 5:08 PM | Anonymous

    Source: NKY Thrives  

    As the weather gets nicer and Daylight Savings time returns, thoughts naturally turn to the great outdoors and opportunities to run, bike, play sports or simply go for a walk.
     
    And what better place is there to enjoy those outdoor activities in Northern Kentucky than a spot along the Ohio River? It’s hard to beat those views of downtown Cincinnati and surrounding hills and your access to restaurants, shops and other amenities in the riverfront towns.
     
    Those towns continue working to better connect their population centers and business districts with the Ohio River (and the Licking River), while a long-term effort to connect the towns with each other via the Riverfront Commons walking/biking trail continues as well. City and regional leaders tout the investments in connectivity a win-win for all of NKY.
     
    “We believe that enhanced public spaces and interaction with the rivers will create a sense of pride for each riverfront community and stimulate the local economy,” says Wade Johnston, Regional Trails Coordinator of Tri-State Trails for Green Umbrella, which is overseeing creation of a connected network of multi-use trails throughout the tristate region.
     
    Johnston says a key to successful development along NKY’s riverfront is creating public spaces that can accommodate community events and connect pedestrians and bike riders to surrounding residential areas.
     
    “From an economic perspective, pedestrians and cyclists are more likely to stop in a storefront and spend money, compared to a person driving by at 35 or 45 mph,” he says. “Ultimately, it benefits NKY to make the urban areas walkable and attractive to residents so more people choose to live, work and play here.”
     
    Local leaders clearly see the benefits of a connected riverfront.
     
    “Bellevue would wither and die if we weren’t connected with our neighboring communities,” Bellevue City Councilman Ryan Salzman says. “We need to keep these arteries open and the blood flowing for economic development. And connections like Riverfront Commons send a clear message to developers that we’re open to working together to get things done.”
     
    Covington City Manager Larry Klein agrees with Riverfront Commons’ connectivity goals.
     
    “We don’t want to compete with what’s across, down or up the river, we want to add to it,” Klein says. “By working collaboratively we can leverage resources between cities and states, increasing the scale of individual projects and creating a unique regional asset that’s on par with any in the country.”
     
     
    Riverfront Commons starts filling in gaps
     
    Southbank Partners has taken the lead in fulfilling a vision for one paved walking/biking trail connecting Ludlow on the western riverfront all the way to Dayton and Ft. Thomas in the east. Small sections already exist on the Newport and Dayton floodwalls, but the next few months will see lots of activity to start filling in the gaps.
     
    Southbank Partners President Jack Moreland says one of the first things people will notice is new signage touting “River Commons: Where It All Flows Together.” Signs have been fabricated and are being given to each city to use as they see fit, he says; Bellevue is the first with specific plans to deploy them this summer.
     
    “It’s an attempt to roll out the Riverfront Commons brand before we really have a finished trail,” Moreland says, noting the full 11-mile vision remains years away from completion. “The signs have a unified Riverfront Commons theme and logo but allow each city to personalize them to highlight what they want to promote.”
     
    Here’s a rundown of activity expected in the near future around building out and filling in the Riverfront Commons vision (moving west to east):
     
    • Ludlow: Moreland says that phases 1 and 2 of the trail extension into Ludlow from its Covington border are fully funded and ready to be bid for design and construction. The trail will interact with Memorial Park and Ludlow High School and connect with designated feeder streets to take walkers and bikers up the hill into Devou Park.
     
    • Covington: The city received federal and state grants last Fall to help fund a $10 million riverfront transformation, which includes connections to Riverfront Commons. See more details below under “Covington banking on ripple effect.”
     
    • Newport: The most visible construction activity on the NKY riverfront might be where Aqua on the Levee and Hampton Inn & Suites are making progress at either side of Newport on the Levee. In the same area, work begins this summer on small bridges to connect the Taylor Southgate Bridge to existing floodwall trails on both sides, allowing walkers and bikers direct access to cross the river into Cincinnati.
     
    Work also begins this summer to continue Riverfront Commons east into Bellevue by creating a paved trail along the floodwall side of Dave Cowens Drive (Route 8) under I-471. It would end in front of Joe’s Crab Shack, where Newport is finalizing plans to construct the new Taylor Creek Overlook Park.
     
    Moreland says NKY’s most important project, however, might be along the Licking River in Newport’s west end, where construction continues to extend Route 9 to the downtown riverfront. The massive project is opening 22 acres along the Licking for development, including the old Newport Steel facility and the proposed Ovation mixed use development where the Licking meets the Ohio.
     
    Completion of the full Route 9 extension is expected by Fall 2017.
     
    • Bellevue: Much of the city’s summer activity — including concerts and festivals — will happen at its riverfront park, recently renamed Thomas J. Wiethorn Memorial Beach Park. Bellevue will use the new Riverfront Commons signage to designate an interim walking/biking path along Fairfield Avenue (Route 8) and down Ward Avenue to the park. A Cincy Red Bike station is being installed at Fairfield and Ward to help encourage activity.
     
    “It’s not the ideal long-term plan to put cyclists on Fairfield Avenue with cars, but we just want to get going with the Riverfront Commons concept,” Salzman says, noting that Bellevue’s riverfront — which unlike its neighboring cities doesn’t have a floodwall — would need to be built up in the future to support a free-standing trail.
     
    • Dayton: Construction is underway on the first homes in the massive Manhattan Harbour project on Dayton’s riverfront, where the existing floodwall trail would have multiple connections. State funding has been secured to upgrade and fill in a new one-mile trail section.
     
    • Ft. Thomas and further east: Moreland says Riverfront Commons officially ends at the eastern edge of Dayton, but he sees an opportunity to extend the trail connections another few miles.
     
    The national Rails-to-Trails movement has created thousands of miles of walking/biking paths along abandoned railroad lines, but now a Rails-With-Trails push is carving public paths along active railroad lines with appropriate safety fencing and separation. Moreland says CSX Railroad now uses just one track along the Ohio River, having dropped the second one, which could allow Riverfront Commons to be extended east along Ft. Thomas’ riverfront and under I-275 all the way to Pendery Sports Park in Silver Grove.
     
     
    Covington banking on 'ripple effect'
     
    City officials are considering a variety of riverfront options while awaiting U.S. Army Corp of Engineers approval for their initial stabilization and infrastructure improvement plans. Work on the first phase — from Madison Avenue to Crescent Avenue (Route 8) — starts this summer to build a large plaza with walking/biking paths as part of Riverfront Commons as well as water access for kayaking.
     
    Other amenities could offer interactive human-scale components such as water features, public art, food truck plazas and hands-on recreation. The city will need other funding, including grants and private donors, to build the more creative and ambitious options being discussed.
     
    “Excellent outdoor public spaces have a ripple effect, leading to an increased property values in the city and making it more attractive for additional investment,” Klein says. “The link between recreational and cultural amenities and economic development is consistently demonstrated in the great cities worldwide. It’s important that Covington recognizes and acts on that fact by investing in public spaces.”
     
    Covington has also announced two other high-profile outdoor projects. The first is replacement of the golf course clubhouse in Devou Park, a $5.25 million project funded by Devou Park Trust and Drees Pavilion. The new 12,000-square-foot clubhouse will serve more than just golfers, housing a cafe with outdoor seating, bike rentals and a park ranger station; completion is expected by Spring 2017.
     
    The other project is Electric Alley, which will be converted to a walking and biking path between Fifth and Sixth Streets parallel to Madison and Scott. The alley runs through Gateway Community and Technical College’s downtown campus in a growing area with retail shops, businesses, restaurants and the Kenton County Public Library.
     
    The alley conversion is being funded by a $1 million “transportation alternatives” grant from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. A construction timeline will be developed once the project is sent out for bids.

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