February & March
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Urban Waters Plan

In the Junction Avenue neighborhood of central Toledo, demolition of blighted property has created an opportunity for innovative re-development. For more than a year, neighbors have been meeting to plan how to beautify and eventually redevelop the area. Part of their discussion has involved converting vacant property to beautiful, useful, green space. Green spaces act as stormwater management infrastructure and also provide gardens and other attractive features.

The process was transformative for the participants in the Junction Avenue neighborhood group. Alicia Smith, neighborhood activist who collaborated with TMACOG on the project, said “the experience has been life altering and eye opening.” She and her group learned about government agencies, water quality, stormwater, and recycling. She said, “I think the community learned to trust and use their voice to influence change. We learned how to communicate effectively with governmental agencies. I think moving forward we will learn what we must do to develop sustainable relationships with governmental agencies that directly impact our lives.”

Stormwater planner Kari Gerwin said that working with a neighborhood group was very different from her usual work with stormwater managers who work for cities and villages. “I learned that community priorities are often very different from those of local government. Community priorities usually involve improvements to everyday life. Sometimes this can mean quieting a noisy dog, but it also means ensuring the safety of the neighborhood’s children or stopping illegal dumping on a next door vacant lot.” Timing also made the Junction Avenue group receptive to stormwater issues. “After the drinking water emergency in 2014 residents of the Junction neighborhood and across the region became very aware of the importance of safe drinking water. If the Junction Urban Waters project team had asked the community to participate in planning for green infrastructure and water quality improvements prior to the water crisis, community members may not have been as enthusiastic. However, because we could relate issues like combined sewer overflows and stormwater pollution directly to everyday life issue, the community was eager to participate. The result is a plan that reflects everyday issues of illegal dumping, overgrown vacant lots, and clean drinking water and a vision for addressing them through greening and redevelopment.”

Scott Sibley, City of Toledo administrator, department of public utilities; and Kari Gerwin, TMACOG stormwater planner.

Alicia Smith, neighborhood activist; and Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson of the City of Toledo.

The neighborhood group rolled out their final plan at a public meeting Monday, January 25.

Junction Avenue neighbors gathered to review the final plan for greening and stormwater management.

The final plan will be posted soon. Funding for the Junction Avenue Urban Waters project was provided by TMACOG and the U.S. EPA.

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