Environmental Protection and Natural Resources
From The Master Plan - Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation
Over the past 50 years, communities have begun to realize that the protection and restoration of their natural environment is of vital importance and that healthily functioning ecosystems have a positive impact on the economic and social health of a community.
Natural resources are increasingly seen as an economic driver, with businesses choosing to locate in communities that have readily-accessible natural amenities, and residents migrating to regions considered to be environmentally healthy. Additionally, natural amenities provide “ecosystem services:” trees clean the air and regulate temperatures, wetlands purify water, and floodplains mitigate flooding by accommodating storm water naturally. Ecosystem services therefore reduce a community’s need for costly infrastructure solutions such as new sewer lines and systems.
Natural amenities such as open space and river corridors are also beneficial to the creation of a healthy social environment. Time and again, communities rally around a park, a stand of trees, or a water body that they value. Natural amenities often define the community that grows up around them, providing a unique social and cultural identity. Greenspace provides a community meeting places, recreation, and a place for spiritual and mental renewal. Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre have already put forth substantial effort and have had great success in preserving and restoring places of environmental or greenspace value, including city-owned parks, the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo and Brookside Reservation, and Treadway Creek Trail and Greenway. Friends of Big Creek is an active and involved watershed group committed to restoring the health of Big Creek and its tributaries, while several studies have been commissioned to examine green space connections and the Lower Big Creek Valley.
The need for significant environmental improvements remains, however, if Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre are to create a healthy, beautiful and sustainable natural environment accessible to all community members. Several essential components include the protection and restoration of the Lower Big Creek, Stickney Creek, and the Cuyahoga River; the protection of the neighborhood hillsides, which are a defining characteristic of the neighborhoods; improvement of air quality; and the development of an environmental stewardship ethic within the greater community.
Goal 21: Protect and improve the health of the Lower Big Creek, its tributaries and the Cuyahoga River.
Big Creek and the Cuyahoga River have been huge factors in the development of Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre. Their presence has influenced development patterns, commerce, and types of industry. Residents have enjoyed the dramatic views from the hillsides and the beauty of the river valley for decades. Unfortunately, human activities over the last century have severely compromised the integrity of these natural assets. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the leading cause of water degradation is nonpoint source pollution, with urban runoff being the fastest growing threat nationwide . Efforts during the past 20 years, however, have worked to restore the Cuyahoga River, Big Creek, and the tributaries of Big Creek, including Stickney Creek and Treadway Creek. Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre stand to benefit greatly in terms of resident health, and economic and social viability as these natural features are restored. According to the Lower Big Creek Study completed by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), the biggest threats to the Lower Big Creek include fragmentation; lack of canopy; detrimental streamside activities such as landfill operations; combined sewer overflows (CSOs); hillside subsidence; storm water runoff; and invasive plant species.
Reduce threats to the ecological integrity of the Lower Big Creek, Stickney and Treadway Creeks, and the Cuyahoga River.
No matter how much restoration work is completed, if real and potential threats are not removed or mitigated, Lower Big Creek, Stickney Creek, Treadway Creek and the Cuyahoga River watershed will not return to a healthy state. Threats to urban watersheds are plentiful, and it takes creative and diligent solutions and collaboration to mitigate many of the most pressing problems.
Work with businesses and industries in the Valley to minimize their ecological footprint.
Work cooperatively with business owners of industrial operations in the Lower Big Creek Valley to relocate to locations that are best suited to meet the companies’ needs for size, access and visibility, as recommended in the Lower Big Creek Greenway Redevelopment and Restoration Plan.
Encourage Best Management Practices
Encourage Best Management Practices for storm water runoff and the use of potentially hazardous chemicals for the industries in the Valley that will remain. Encourage business owners to become members of Entrepreneurs for Sustainability so Valley businesses can become savvy about greener business solutions such as the Waste=Revenue program.
Reduce residential pollutants that enter Lower Big Creek, Stickney Creek and Treadway Creek
Reduce residential pollutants that enter Lower Big Creek, Stickney Creek and Treadway Creek through storm water. These pollutants include lawn chemicals and fertilizers, grass clippings, animal waste, and soil and rock sediments from construction. Such measures include:
- Installing vegetated stream buffers
- Enhancing street sweeping and trash removal programs
- Reducing the use of fertilizers and lawn chemicals on public and private property
- Working with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District to educate residents about the proper disposal of materials including hazardous waste and animal waste.
Reduce the quantity and velocity of storm water
Reduce the quantity and velocity of storm water entering Big Creek and the Cuyahoga River by increasing the amount of pervious surface and creating a natural system of “green infrastructure” for the storage, slow release, and infiltration of storm water.
The “Reimagining A More Sustainable Cleveland” policy report provides a detailed discussion of “green infrastructure” and strategies for improving storm water retention. Measures such as bioswales and pervious pavement for parking lots work best when installed in areas where water retention is high. The soils along the Lower Big Creek Valley are hydrologic soil types A and B, which offer the greatest potential for infiltration. This means that nearly all of Brooklyn Centre and the northern half of Old Brooklyn are prime locations for installing green infrastructure.
- Such measures could include preserving remaining open space, converting unused parking lots into green space, installing green roofs, curb cuts, detention basins, vegetated swales, and created wetlands.
- Promote community gardening and urban farming as not only pervious surfaces, but promoting a sustainable, local food system that is healthier for people and the environment.
Encourage residential rain gardens and rain barrel program.
Use Kansas City’s 10,000 Rain Gardens Program as a model to develop a residential rain garden and rain barrel program to divert storm water generated by residential properties and also to educate and engage the citizenry in water quality issues. This will be especially important in Stickney Creek, where the creek runs through dense residential streets and the residents are more intimately connected with the creek.
Eliminate combined sewer overflows CSOs.
Work with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to find and eliminate any CSOs in order to prevent untreated sewage from entering the Creek during large storm events.
Daylight segments of the largely culverted Stickney Creek were appropriate.
Adopt regulations and guidelines to protect ecologically sensitive areas.
According to the Lower Big Creek Study, current zoning in much of the Lower Big Creek Valley does not provide for the protection of critical resources found there. Previous studies have included some recommendations. The Watershed Management Plan for Big Creek, currently being written by the Cuyahoga River RAP, will include details on the watershed characteristics and recommendations for watershed-wide controls to improve management of storm water. Stream enhancement suggestions will also be guided by the Management Plan. It is essential to work with entities involved in land use, development and policy to strengthen, enforce or adopt new zoning regulations, ordinances, and best management practices that impact water quality.
Adopt Hillside Overlay District Regulations.
Hillside subsidence along the Lower Big Creek Valley has been an issue for years, and regulations pertaining to development on and near hillsides have been recommended in previous studies. In fact, the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission prepared a draft for a Hillside Overlay District in 2005, based on these earlier studies. The goals of the Hillside District are to 1) protect people and property from hazardous conditions resulting from steeply sloping lands, 2) minimize the impacts of development by controlling the location, intensity, pattern and construction of proposed development, and 3) establish a review process for all land disturbance and construction to ensure that all proposals for construction or disturbance are compatible to the natural environment.
Maps 5.2 and 5.3 illustrate the extent of application of the draft Hillside Overlay District. Definitions and standards set forth in the draft include the following:
- The Overlay District would be applied to land that is:
- Sloped with an average minimum grade of 18 percent or more and a minimum vertical change in elevation of 15 feet;
- Land beyond the top of the slope that is equivalent to four times the vertical change in elevation, measured from the toe of the slope. (If the elevation change is 15 feet, the zone would include land within 60 feet of the toe of the slope);
- Land at the toe of the slope that is equal to the height of the vertical change in elevation, measured from the toe of the slope.
- Disturbances to the land would be generally limited as follows:
- 18% – 25%: Some grading may occur, but landforms must retain their natural character.
- 25% — 40%: Development and grading can only occur if it can be demonstrated that stability, safety, environmental, and aesthetic impacts will be avoided.
- Greater than 40%: The area is required to remain as permanent open space.
The draft ordinance also includes language for the establishment of scenic overlooks, a recommendation which appears below.
Protect riparian corridors
Protect riparian corridors based on recommendations from the Watershed Manage-ment Plan for Big Creek and the “Reimagining A More Sustainable Cleveland” report to control construction and disturbances within the riparian corridors along stream channels. A taskforce of experts, convened by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, has prepared a model Riparian Setback ordinance which provides riparian setback standards based on the drainage area of the watercourse. For the portions of the waterways that traverse the neighborhoods, the recommended standards are 120 feet for Lower Big Creek and 300 feet for the Cuyahoga River. These standards have been incorporated in the draft Hillside Overlay District ordinance.
Enforce storm water regulations and guidelines.
- Ensure that Chapter 3116 — Construction and Post-Construction Site Runoff Control to Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System—of City of Cleveland’s Codified Ordinances are followed in all new development.
- Work with the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District to promote the use of Best Management Practices for erosion and soil stabilization control measures that go beyond those listed in Chapter 3116 of the City’s Codified Ordinances. These include soil mats, silt fences, rip-rap as well as temporary and permanent vegetated covers.
Rezone land targeted for recreation or open space as Open Space and Recreation Districts
Found in chapter 342 of Cleveland’s Codified Ordinances.
Continue remediation efforts in the Lower Big Creek Valley.
Several entities have completed restoration efforts in the Lower Big Creek Valley. Most recently, the City of Cleveland completed the Treadway Creek Trail, which restored a portion of the Big Creek tributary and created a multi-purpose trail connecting Treadway Creek with the adjacent neighborhood. Friends of Big Creek and the Cuyahoga River Remedial Action Plan have been instrumental in public outreach, education and watershed planning.
Restore habitat and create ecological diversity
Restore habitat and create ecological diversity in targeted portions of the Lower Big Creek Valley as identified in the Lower Big Creek Greenway R&R Plan by reestablishing fish populations, replanting riparian native plants, and restoration of the tree canopy. One possible restoration project includes reestablishing native hillside plants and forests to stabilize fragile hillside soils. Work with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Cleveland Botanical Gardens to determine the most appropriate species to plant.
Continue the removal of debris
Continue the removal of debris on hillsides and in Treadway Creek.
Return Lower Big Creek to a more natural form
Return Lower Big Creek to a more natural form by restoring sinuosity, pools and riffles to channelized portions and daylighting culverts where appropriate. Daylight and restore Stickney Creek, which runs under Oakpark Avenue to reduce flooding issues. Establish a conservation easement to protect the tributary and open space in perpetuity.
Protect ecologically significant land and healthy stretches of the Lower Big Creek Valley through acquisition, easements or regulation.
Many communities throughout Ohio have been successful in protecting their stream and river corridors. Working with land trusts, communities are often able to encourage the protection of ecologically important property along a stream or river through fee simple acquisition or the purchase of a conservation easement. Communities including Parma and Independence have worked with the West Creek Preservation Committee to protect stretches of the West Creek and in doing so have made these places more attractive to residents and businesses while strengthening environmental health.
Protect important forested lands
Protect important forested lands in the Lower Big Creek Valley as identified in the Lower Big Creek Valley Study and continue to establish ecologically sound recreation space within the Valley using the Treadway Creek Trail and Greenway as a model.
Acquire fee simple or conservation easement purchase of important land
Acquire fee simple or conservation easement purchase of important land in the Lower Big Creek Valley and floodplain that will ultimately result in a greenway corridor. Partner with Trust for Public Land, Friends of Big Creek and the City of Cleveland to take advantage of Ohio Public Works’ Clean Ohio Program and the Ohio EPA’s Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program.
Educate residents and visitors about the importance of healthy waterways.
According to the Trust for Public Land, the most fundamental and critical approach to capturing and safeguarding clean water or treat contaminated water begins at the source: the lakes, rivers, streams, reservoirs, and ground water that provide drinking water. By preserving the land that drains to these sources, the vast majority of contaminants are prevented from entering the drinking water supply in the first place. Healthy functioning watersheds are not only critical to protecting a community’s water supply, but also essential in keeping municipal costs down, and act as a catalyst in the creation of an active and engaged population.
Place signage in highly visible areas
Place signage in highly visible areas to inform residents and visitors about current and past protection and restoration efforts, historic human-river interactions, and the importance of a healthy stream and river system. Signage could be placed at or near Treadway Creek Trail and Greenway and Harmody Park; Brookside Reservation; residential streets in southwest Old Brooklyn near Stickney Creek; and all other popular access points to the Lower Big Creek Valley.
Invite watershed and water quality experts to public events and community meetings
Invite watershed and water quality experts to public events and community meetings to discuss their work and how it impacts residents and businesses. Organizations that should be represented include Friends of Big Creek, West Creek Preservation Committee, The Cuyahoga River Remedial Action Plan, Ohio Canalway Corridor, Trust for Public Land, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Ohio EPA.
Encourage area high school biology teachers to teach a section on stream ecology
Encourage area high school biology teachers to teach a section on stream ecology with interactive learning in Lower Big Creek, Treadway Creek and Stickney Creek.
Goal 22: Improve air quality in Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre.
Many residents are not satisfied with the air quality in and around Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre neighborhoods. The American Lung Association has given Cuyahoga County a “C” in terms of ozone pollution and an “F” in terms of particle pollution. Improved air quality translates into a better quality of life for residents and attracts more people to live and work in the area. Reducing air pollution also saves costs in terms of healthcare and number of work days missed. While issues of air quality and air pollution are largely beyond a community’s control (due to the mobility of air pollution), there are several steps that a community can do to mitigate harmful pollutants or influence change beyond its borders.
Maintain and increase the number of trees and amount of vegetation to help clean the air.
Trees are efficient “air cleaning machines”, sequestering many pollutants from the atmosphere, including nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, and fine particulate matter—all of which are at problematic levels within the city of Cleveland. In Washington, D.C., density than Cleveland, 878,000 pounds of pollutants removed annually by trees, resulting in an annual savings of $2.1 million.
Encourage residents and businesses to plant and maintain trees
Encourage residents and businesses to plant and maintain trees in their yards and to trim branches from interfering trees rather than take them down. Street and residential trees play a huge role in cleaning city air in high density areas, especially where no large forests lands exist to act as a source of clean air and a sink for pollutants.
- Become a “Tree-City USA”, and utilize The Arbor Day’s Tree Give-A-Way program to encourage residents and property owners to plant new trees.
- Work with utility companies to become more sensitive to saving trees that have branches close to power lines, rather than topping them.
- Educate residents and property owners on the proper maintenance and care for trees, especially saplings and during periods of drought. Use the City of Dublin, Ohio’s webpage on Tree Maintenance as a model.
Plant salt-resistant shrubs and trees
Work with the City of Cleveland and the Ohio Department of Transportation to plant salt-resistant shrubs and trees along roadways to buffer and clean pollution from cars and trucks.
Encourage the development and active participation in air quality citizen action groups.
Citizen activism is an important way to influence policy. Groups including the Ohio Environmental Council work to mobilize citizens around environmental issues to reach their representatives and influence legislation. The clean air and water acts in the 1960’s and 1970’s were largely passed in response to public outcry. Citizen-lead efforts do make a difference.
Lobby federal and state governmental organizations
Lobby federal and state governmental organizations including the USEPA and the OEPA to adopt more stringent air quality regulations.
Disseminate information regarding upcoming legislation in state and federal government involving air quality, using the OBCDC webpage, newsletter and during community events. Partner with the Ohio Environmental Council to do this.
Work with industries in the Cuyahoga and Big Creek Valleys
Work with industries in the Cuyahoga and Big Creek Valleys that contribute to air quality problems in order to develop a relationship based on cooperation and understanding of mutual goals of community prosperity. Encourage these businesses to participate in Entrepreneurs for Sustainability, the Green Building Coalition, Green Energy Ohio, and other local organizations that work with industries to promote new innovations to increase energy efficiency, decrease waste stream and save money.
Educate residents and business owners about what they can do to improve the air quality in Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre.
Use the American Forests’ CITYGreen
Use the American Forests’ CITYGreen GIS software in schools so students can calculate the benefits of trees including the amount of air purification and storm water management the trees in their neighborhood provide.
Work with NOACA to increase public awareness
Work with NOACA to increase public awareness about what individuals can do to improve the region’s air quality.
- Encourage the use of public transportation by working with the GCRTA to distribute information and sponsor community events.
- Discourage idling, especially delivery trucks.
- Increase knowledge about ozone-days and what behaviors to avoid during these days, including heavy exercise, running gas lawn mowers, etc.
Goal 23:Encourage the development of an environmental stewardship ethic in all people that reside, conduct business, or visit Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre.
Aldo Leopold, biologist and conservationist in the early Twentieth Century first coined the term “Land Ethic.” In his A Sand County Almanac, Leopold wrote that our society would not be truly sophisticated unless we recognized that the land, its plant and animals all have rights just as humans do. Extending ethical treatment and respect towards the land seemed to Leopold the next logical and essential step in our society. In order to assure that efforts in environmental restoration are not in vain, steps must be taken to ensure that our society develops a land ethic that is intrinsic to our culture such that protection and restoration efforts are perpetuated.
Promote appreciation for green space in and around Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre.
Continue to conduct and sponsor community events.
Hold community events and meetings, art displays and organized recreation in the area’s natural areas.
- Work with the Friends of Big Creek and the Cuyahoga River RAP to promote various clean-up events in the Lower Big Creek, Treadway and Stickney Creeks, and continue to collaborate with Ohio Canal Corridor to promote “Riversweep” every spring to attract more volunteers and sponsorship to clean a bigger portion of the Lower Big Creek.
- Establish an “Outdoor Adventure” group that organizes outings to the area’s natural amenities, including Treadway Creek Trail, the Towpath, the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo, neighborhood parks and neighborhood cemeteries.
Promote community gardening
Promote community gardening to connect residents to one another and to the environment, and help create a local food system. Benjamin Franklin Gardens is an excellent example of a long-term community garden.
For those who are interested in the aesthetic value of plants in more public places, organize a city-endorsed “Guerrilla Gardening” group. Guerrilla gardening is a political statement about the way land is seen in an urban environment. Gardeners turn vacant or marginalized land into gardens. Usually done surreptitiously and overnight, these projects nonetheless have many benefits, including beautification, storm water management aspects, food provision, and engaging the citizenry to make them consider the possibilities of what their neighborhood could look like.
Educate residents and business owners about the economic and social benefits
Educate residents and business owners about the economic and social benefits of a healthy environment, including air and water purification; temperature regulation; and flooding and erosion mitigation.
- Turn remediation projects into educational, sight-seeing, or recreational experiences where possible.
- Invite professionals and experts talk to various groups in the community, including Block Clubs, Business Associations, and area institutions.
- Incorporate ecology into biology classes.
Create an awards program
Create an awards program that celebrates businesses and residents that take steps to be more environmentally friendly or sustainable.
Promote the establishment of scenic overlooks
Promote the establishment of scenic overlooks of Lower Big Creek Valley vistas through the neighborhoods to entice people into the area. The draft Hillside Overlay District Ordinance includes protection of scenic views. Protected views should include the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo, Treadway Creek, Calgary Park, and the Henninger property.
Promote compliance and mitigation on a range of environmental issues.
Ensure compliance with environmental regulations
Work with City of Cleveland, OEPA and NOERSD to ensure compliance with environmental regulations to reduce practices and activities that are ecologically destructive.
Pursue code enforcement
Continue to pursue code enforcement regarding illegal dumping practices in the Valley and advertise the Ridge Road transfer station as a free and legal alternative to illegal dumping. The Ridge Road Transfer Station, owned and operated by the City of Cleveland, allows Cleveland residents up to four free trips per year to safely dispose of household items that are not included in curb-side pick-up, so long as they do not contain any hazardous substances or and are not considered to be construction and demolition material. Commercial entities are charged a fee.
Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District’s services, events, and educational material
Promote the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District’s services, events, and educational materials including the Hazardous Household Waste Round-Up and other programs that encourage residents and businesses to recycle and properly dispose of refuse.
Encourage increased monitoring and detection of noncompliant businesses.
Residents have complained of night time polluting activities such as fires and other activities that create odors, which are likely conducted at that time to avoid detection.