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Moving into the future: What we need from NOACA's Long-Range Transportation Plan

David Beach  |  06/21/16 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Transportation choices

If you had billions of dollars to invest in transportation improvements to make Northeast Ohio a better place, what would be your priorities? That’s the question facing the transportation planning agency, NOACA, as it updates the region’s Long-Range Transportation Plan. Here’s a quick guide to the issues.

One-way travel<br />NOACA's update of the region's Long-Range Transportation Plan is an opportunity to change direction and promote better transportation choices.

Cleveland's energy burden on low-income households

David Beach  |  04/28/16 @ 12:00pm  |  Posted in Clean energy

Cleveland ranks among the worst 10 cities in the nation in the energy cost burden on low-income and minority households. Energy efficiency can help reduce this disproportionate burden and put more dollars into the local economy.

Energy burden<br />Cleveland ranks high in the energy burden on low-income and African-American households. (Source: Lifting the High Energy Burdens in America's Largest Cities: How Energy Efficiency Can Improve Low-Income and Underserved Communities, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 2016)

Sustainable Cuyahoga: A toolkit of recommended best practices for communities in Cuyahoga County

David Beach  |  03/10/16 @ 5:00pm  |  Posted in Transform

In the past few months GreenCityBlueLake has been working with the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability on a toolkit of sustainability and environmental best practices for communities. Now the toolkit has been released and is posted on the county website for download. It’s full of practical ideas, links to model policies, and connections to local experts. Check it out and...

Making it easier to be sustainable<br />The Sustainable Cuyahoga toolkit provides great ideas for what local governments can do to facilitate the transition to more sustainable practices, such as renewable energy. (Photo by AAT Solar)

Loop around Lake Erie: A photo tour of our greatest natural resource

David Beach  |  03/01/16 @ 2:00pm  |  Posted in Connecting to nature

Millions of people live near Lake Erie, but few have really explored it. Even fewer have explored the Canadian side of the lake. This photo tour provides a glimpse of what you can see on a trip around the shore of Lake Erie (hover your cursor over the photos to see captions). It was compiled by Cleveland Heights residents Jim Miller...

<br /><br />Heading toward Ashtabula on Ohio 531. We are trying to avoid Interstates and drive as close as we can to Lake Erie. In Ohio, it is usually difficult to see much of the lake, even when the road runs along the shore. Along much of the shoreline the houses line up, and all you can do is to glance down the driveways to see the lake.<br />Looking south at the rail lines beside the Ashtabula River. Lake Erie's shore, particularly on its U.S. side, has been a place of industry for more than 150 years.<br />Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA, one of the best natural areas along the shore of Lake Erie. <br />Here we see downtown Erie PA from across the bay. Presque Isle is not just a cherished state park for Erie's 100,000 citizens, but the Isle also forms and shelters Erie's very important harbor. The Tom Ridge Environmental Center, at the entrance to Presque Isle State Park, is a new, state of the art museum, with exhibits about the natural life, geology and waters of the Isle and the region.<br />Here is the Presque Isle of Duluth, MN. The place names say much about commerce and shipping on the Great Lakes. Traditionally, coal was shipped to the Duluth end of the run, while iron ore was shipped back for the steel mills of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Of course, many other bulk goods are moved through the Great Lakes, as well. We didn't know it at the time, but this bulk cargo carrier is actually made of two parts. The tug part attaches into the barge part. At 57,500 tons this is the largest such two-part ship in the world.<br />We drive from Erie and Presque Isle State Park into New York State along Route 5, the Great Lakes Seaway. Route 5 runs very near the lake, and often is only a few miles from Interstate 90, but we are not in Interstate country. On a weekday in the middle of the afternoon there is very little traffic, and there are some cyclists on the ever-present bike lanes.<br />We are in Chautauqua County wine country, surrounded by vineyards. The wine country actually starts in Northeast Ohio near the lakeshore and runs on from there into New York. By slowing spring and extending the warmth of summer, the lake creates a nearshore microclimate suitable for growing grapes.  <br />From near Wanakah, NY, we can see the city of Buffalo on the horizon. There is a corridor of wind turbines leading toward the city, just visible. <br />After crossing the border into Canada, we are at a small beach at Selkirk Provincial Park in Ontario. <br />Port Dover is only 25 miles from Selkirk. We have lunch at The Arbor (across the intersection in the photo), a lunch spot which dates back to 1912. Fries, footlong hot dogs, specially made fruit <br />Memorial to fishermen in Port Dover, Ontario -- Lake Erie may seem like a placid expanse, but its bottom is filled with the wrecks of perhaps 6000 ships of all sizes since the 18th century, with a loss of life around 30,000. <br />An ecological treasure of Lake Erie’s Canadian shore is the Long Point peninsula, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve  and an important part of the migratory routes of many, many species of birds. The private Long Point Company protects much of the peninsula, not allowing the public into its various marshes and dunes. A fairly unique history: in 1866, a group of wealthy hunters <br />As we travel around coastal southern Ontario we constantly see wind turbines. Ontario has 2,653 megawatts of wind power installed (2006-2013). By comparison, Ohio in 2012 had 426 megawatts.<br />The peninsulas, sandy points and shorelines of Lake Erie are continually changing, forming inlets and marshes, such as those in Wheatley Provincial Park, Ontario.<br />Next we arrive at Point Pelee National Park, which occupies over 6 kilometers of the 15 kilometer long Point Pelee peninsula. There has been human occupation on the point for at least 6000 years. The National Park was established in 1918, the first Canadian national park established principally for conservation. Located at the crossroads of major bird migration routes for both songbirds and waterfowl, it’s an <br />We are looking at the tip of Point Pelee, the southernmost point in mainland Canada. This shifting sand point is a favorite spot for photographs.<br />After crossing back in the U.S., we drive around the west end of Lake Erie, through Toledo, and past the Cedar Point and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuges. We camp at Ohio's East Harbor State Park in Ottawa County, on the Marblehead Peninsula. Then we visit the Marblehead Lighthouse State Park. The lighthouse was built in 1821 and is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes. The original keeper's house, constructed in 1880, just visible around one side of this marker, is now a small museum. <br />The Marblehead Peninsula points out, in a sideways fashion, toward Kelleys Island, with its glacial grooves, fossilized marine life, wildlife, and observation outlooks.<br />From another vantage point near the lighthouse, we can see across Sandusky Bay to the Cedar Point Amusement Park, with its rides arching into the grey sky. The park opened in 1870, making it the second oldest such amusement park in the U.S. <br />We start to drive home to Cleveland, trying to stay as close to Lake Erie as we can. We drive through the center of Sandusky on U.S. 6, one of the original national routes across the country.<br />While U.S. 6 makes a very significant run along Lake Erie from Sandusky all the way to the western suburbs of Cleveland, usually one can barely the see the lake while driving. Houses and businesses block the view of the lake from anyone except the occupants of those buildings. Here we catch a glimpse of a snippet of the lake in Erie County.<br />Continuing east along U.S. 6, we reach Lorain and the Black River. While most of the Ohio shoreline is blocked from view, towns such as Lorain often have significant parks on the lake. Lorain’s 20-acre Lakeview Park (now part of the Lorain County Metro Parks) dates to 1917.<br />Power plants are common around the Lake Erie, as they are sited next to supplies of cooling water. The 545-megawatt West Lorain plant of FirstEnergy, pictured here, was modernized in 2001 with turbine generating units powered by natural gas or oil. FirstEnergy has shut down dirty, old coal-fired power plants on the lake shore in Cleveland, Eastlake, and Ashtabula, and this has improved air and water quality.<br />Back home to Cleveland, enjoying the view of downtown from an overlook just west of Edgewater Park. For many years, we have followed plans to connect the city better to the lake. There is still much to do -- in Cleveland and all along the Ohio lakefront.

State policies for sustainable cities and transportation in Ohio

David Beach  |  02/22/16 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Vibrant cities

Over the years and decades we’ve participated in many regional planning projects that have documented the costs of sprawling, haphazard growth in Ohio. Solutions have been elusive. But here are some positive changes the state can make right now.

Building on assets<br />Sustainable land use means focusing policies to promote the redevelopment of existing places, such as the Marcel Breuer-designed former Ameritrust tower on the left (now The 9) and the historic Schofield Building (now a Kimpton Hotel) on the right, both in downtown Cleveland.

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