Looking Back and Moving Forward

Each year at this time much is printed about New Year’s Resolutions. A recurrent theme is to vow not to dwell on yesterday or contemplate tomorrow, but instead to focus on today. Well, 2015 was a very good year for the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District and judging this year's strong start, 2016 may be the best ever!

In 2015 we started the year with a fresh brand and updated website and finished the year with the addition of new staff, new programs, better collaboration and an increase in the number of communities that the SWCD provides technical assistance to for their mandated pollution prevention programs. Cuyahoga SWCD now implements conservation programs in 27 communities, plus the Cuyahoga County Engineers, reaching in one form or another 78% of Cuyahoga County's population!

The refreshed Cuyahoga SWCD website (www.cuyahogaswcd.org) not only looks great, but supports easier access to SWCD services. SWCD brochures, the newsletter and annual report were also refreshed for a more polished and easier-to-read format.

Our Storm Water Program staff’s efforts, including better dialog with site operators and better reporting methods, have resulted in fewer “notices of deficiency”. This year 293 storm water pollution prevention plans were reviewed and 1,870 inspections and reports of active construction sites were completed. Through the course of the year, Cuyahoga SWCD inspected 326 different sites on a monthly basis or until a project was completed.

The Long-Term Operations and Maintenance Program now provides reports and training assistance to individual landowners and community staff, which helps to raise awareness of water quality and water quantity practices and identifies potential issues before costly repairs are needed, which helps to ensure that storm water facilities continue to function as intended. This year reports were provided directly to landowners for 764 storm water facilities on 430 sites—a number that will continue to grow.

Conservation education, a historical function of the District, continues to focus on timely, educational messages that address local and regional pollution concerns. Educational materials, including newsletters, posters, electronic mailings and workshops offer an abundance of ideas aimed at changing behavior for a better environment. Rain barrel, rain garden and green cleaning solutions workshops continue to attract new participants. Earth Partnership for Schools engages teachers and the Backyard Habitat Stewards program inspires attendees to reimagine their backyard landscape.

In addition to providing public involvement and public education in the Euclid Creek and Rocky River watershed communities, the watershed coordinators also implement conservation projects and provide opportunities to engage watershed residents in activities such as tree plantings and stream clean ups. Special grants and wonderful collaborations resulted in miles of stream restoration, acres of tree and cover crop plantings that reduced erosion, sedimentation into local waterways and the elimination of hundreds of pounds of phosphorus and nutrient loadings into the streams, thereby protecting Lake Erie.

Stream assessments and water quality monitoring also were done to identify areas for future restoration projects. The watershed-friendly Stream Maintenance Guide is already in use by maintenance and service staff and educational outreach and assistance to service and maintenance staff in Cuyahoga County communities will continue in 2016.

As 2016 begins, the staff is gearing up to educate a wider audience through special trainings for community staff, homeowner associations and professionals. Technical tips and targeted mailings will increase. The Storm Water Program will grow and incorporate efficiency measures in the field that will optimize staff’s efforts and build a foundation for better communication with on-site managers. Watershed projects and initiatives will further reduce pollution to our Great Lake Erie. Plus, staff will continue their involvement in county-wide initiatives, potentially including a newUrban Forestry Initiative with the Natural Resources Conservation Service that will be in-step with other local forestry initiatives. Watch our website for the most up-to-date information.

On behalf of the Cuyahoga SWCD staff, best wishes for a wonderful 2016.

Blog author: Janine Rybka, District Administrator

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