The Lower Olentangy Greenspace Plan is now available

The Olentangy Watershed is currently home to 283,000 people. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) expects this number to nearly double to 500,000 by 2050. With more people comes more development and more impervious surface. Maintaining a healthy watershed with this growth is a challenge that requires careful planning and coordination among several key stakeholders. FLOW’s Greenspace Plan is the first step of such coordination, ensuring that we are protecting and restoring the right places.

FLOW received funding from The Columbus Foundation to produce the Lower Olentangy Greenspace Plan. This was designed as a proactive planning effort to target the protection of high quality areas for the protection of the Olentangy watershed, while accommodating people’s needs for access to greenspace. The Greenspace Plan illuminates the value of accurately inventorying our existing natural resources, provides a framework to educate our citizens, and serves as a tool for prioritizing future efforts and making informed decisions.

The value of greenspace must be recognized for the ‘eco-services’ it provides. We can no longer think of greenspace as “just undeveloped” land. Greenspace provides very quantifiable benefits that cannot be replaced by any other means. Greenspace provides habitat, biodiversity, clean air, healthy places to recreate and heal, and mitigates heat island effects.

The Greenspace Plan assigned scores to land using 22 variables related to ecological resources and opportunities for restoration and protection. The scores were a result of weighting each variable and adding the weighted values of all variables for a particular piece of land. This was completed throughout the entire Lower Olentangy watershed. These were then categorized into five Greenspace Tiers, where Tier 1 represents those areas most important for water quality protection, and Tier 5 displaying the least opportunity for water quality protection. However, greenspace could exist in any of these tiers. Protection of these spaces may be more important within Tiers 1 and 2, whereas greenspace may need to be crated in Tiers 4 and 5.

This Greenspace Plan has been summarized in a report, and the results can be freely accessed here. We hope our partners take advantage of this Greenspace effort for future planning. According to the Trust for Public Lands, the average greenspace in the 100 largest cities in the U.S. covers 15% of their total area. Currently, the Olentangy only has 9% greenspace, and that is without the development anticipated by 2050. Now is the time to plan appropriately for adequate protection of our waterways, and FLOW is now turning its attention to using our Greenspace Plan to prioritize our restoration efforts.

GreenSpace Plan 2020

GIS data page

The Olentangy Greenspace Plan: First Data Insights

Central Ohio is growing and showing no signs slowing down. Updated projections are for another 600,000 more residents by 2050, increasing our region’s population to 3 million strong. In fact, Delaware County has been the fastest growing county in the state since the turn of the century. Such a prolonged population boom can fuel economic opportunity and optimism, but it also comes with challenges. They makes FLOW’s work on the Lower Olentangy Greenspace Plan all the more pressing.

A recent milestone in the project was the completion of a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) database of the Lower Olentangy watershed. GIS technology allows us to organize layers of information into a unique visualization of the watershed. This can reveal deeper insights, patterns, and relationships that help us make more informed decisions. In a recent presentation to our partners, Ryan Pilewski, Watershed Resource Specialist with the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District, revealed some first insights from the recently compiled baseline data.

The initial analysis reveals about 20% of the Lower Olentangy watershed is covered by tree canopy, with substantially lower canopy cover in the highly urbanized areas. Research has shown at least 45% stream side forest cover is required for streams to have a healthy rating of “good”, so it’s something to examine if we want to adequately buffer our streams and rivers to ameliorate the impacts of future development.

Meanwhile the entire watershed is 17% covered by impervious surfaces. This represents the sum of roads, parking lots, sidewalks and rooftops that prevent water from infiltrating the surface and thereby increasing storm water runoff. Resulting problems include increased flooding, higher temperatures, sanitary sewer overflows and decreased stream health. With global climate change increasing the frequency of heavy rainfall events in Columbus and an intensifying urban heat island, it could be time to accelerate greener infrastructure options or even consider removing pavement from sensitive areas.

Only about 9% of the lands in the Lower Olentangy watershed have protected status. These lands include parks, trails, open and green spaces, and conservation easements. Ensuring we have adequate green space is of increasing concern amid the backdrop of strong population growth and development pressures. A growing body of scientific evidence confirms measurable human health benefits from green space. And it goes well beyond the need for healthy rivers and clean water. Natural spaces such as parks, urban forests, streams, and trails improve health, reduce stress, and can move the needle on disease prevention. So investing in green space makes us – and our communities – more resilient.

What can we take from these first data insights? The Lower Olentangy Greenspace Plan project was designed as a proactive planning effort to ensure that we have high quality natural space to protect the Olentangy watershed, as well as enough recreational space for healthy human needs. The metrics can illuminate the value of accurately inventorying our existing natural resources, provide a framework to educate our citizens, and be used as a tool for prioritizing future preservation efforts.

Survey on Green and Open Spaces in the Lower Olentangy River Watershed

Survey Link

FLOW is inviting you to fill out a brief survey on how green space and open space are perceived, valued, and used by those who live, work or recreate in the lower Olentangy River watershed. The survey is part of FLOW’s green and open space planning project. (https://flowohio.org )

For the purposes of this survey, green spaces are areas with natural land cover such as forests, wetlands, streams, prairies, and ponds. Open spaces are areas such as parks, sports fields and playgrounds.

Your participation in this survey is voluntary. Your responses will be confidential and will not be linked to any identifying information.

If you have any questions or comments on the survey please email info@olentangywatershed.org

Thank you.

 

Water Quality Report Cards for Olentangy River Tributaries

UPDATE: More reports can be found in our Wiki site; many of the tributaries have their own pages with water quality reports attached.

Volunteer Stream Quality Monitors from the Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed have sampled 21 locations at 11 Olentangy River tributaries in the past two years.   The sites are sampled for various organisms that could be found in small streams, then assigned a score based on the number of different organisms found. The score is called the Cumulative Index Value (CIV).  The greater the diversity, or number of different types of organisms found, the higher the cumulative index score. The scores for the CIV can range from 1 to 25, where a higher number reflects a higher diversity of organisms and is indicative of better water quality and habitat in the stream.

Below are links to stream quality report cards for several tributaries within the lower Olentangy River watershed. The report cards also identify specific causes of water quality problems in the stream.

Glen Echo Run  (CIV = 7.3)

Slyh Run (CIV = 6.9)

Rush Run  (CIV = 9.5)

Water Conservation and Sustainability

Water Conservation and Sustainability

Public Meeting
Monday, February 11, 2019 6:00 – 7:30 PM
Whetstone Public Library
3909 N. High St. Columbus OH 43214

Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed will host Kent Halloran, from The Ohio State University College of Engineering, to speak on the importance of water conservation. He will provide a variety of strategies and techniques to save water without spending a dime! Topics will include: gardens and xeriscaping, grey water and green roofs.

Kent Halloran serves as a water compliance engineer for OSU, where he researches water, environmental issues, and regulations. He is an instructor and lecturer with OSU’s Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering Department, speaking on topics of water use, sustainability, and pollution prevention. Kent has a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from OSU and a Master’s of Engineering in Environmental Systems Engineering from Clemson University.

Kent is also a licensed professional engineer in the states of Ohio & Idaho, and a Board Certified Environmental Engineer with the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists. He has over 30 years’ experience in the design, construction, and rehabilitation of potable water, wastewater, and stormwater facilities.

Please join us for this free public presentation hosted by the Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW).

Any questions? Please feel free to contact Matt Wolf at info@olentangywatershed.org. Thank you!