At the time of this post, it is a sunny, late fall day and the perfect time to reflect on the minor trials and major tributes of 2018.

The trials were few and go with the territory--waiting for return calls, the uncertainty that comes with staff changes, project snafus, bad weather, concerned landowners, and program anxiety. Thankfully, all days were good, and some were better. Here is a look at 2018.

Enlightening people about conservation and water quality issues provides the foundation for the District’s work. The Conservation Education and Stormwater Education programs aim to reach a variety of audiences with the goal encouraging positive behavior related to conservation and pollution prevention. The Ohio Federation of Soil & Water Conservation Districts (OFSWCD) recognized Cuyahoga SWCD as the “District of the Year,” with a special shout out for the Latino Earth Partnership Program and the efforts to reach diverse audiences. Staff held more than 120 outstanding programs, events and opportunities for engagement, of which 43 were school programs, in 51 communities. Stream cleanups, tree plantings, green cleaning workshops, teacher and student workshops, and rain barrel workshops were among the type of programs offered. And how about this--for the first time ever a Cuyahoga County school won first place at the area Envirothon competition. Way to go, Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School.

Not to be overshadowed, the Stormwater Program was recognized as a “Program of Excellence” by the Ohio Stormwater Association. This year 130 stormwater pollution prevention plans were reviewed and approved. Approximately 200 active construction sites were inspected per month, and an additional 700 stormwater control measures Dovetailing nicely with the inspections were educational and training programs that staff provided both locally and statewide, which included training for SWCD staff in other counties. Our first pond workshop was a success. Workshops for landowners and community personnel related to long term operations and maintenance of stormwater control measures were also provided.

Cuyahoga County's urban agriculture has been getting some extra technical assistance from SWCD staff. Workshops and on-site landowner assistance (50 clients) focused on best practices for growing, pollinator habitat and soil health. Another first was being awarded our first (USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service) Resource Conservation Partnership Program and Contribution Agreement grants to help rebuild the urban forest. In the quest to restore the urban tree canopy, the SWCD staff has embraced the mantra-- more trees please! The staff has secured funding and held 20 tree-planting workshops and events with approximately 1200 trees planted. In addition, two members of the staff graduated from the Tree Commission Academy.

Urban waterways are abused, buried, constricted, heavily impacted and often polluted, which makes stream restoration and water quality improvements a challenge. Thanks to a grant from the Ohio Department of Agriculture-Division of Soil & Water Conservation funds were provided for a watershed specialist to focus on the westside nearshore tributaries to the lake, and to augment the work being done in the Euclid Creek and Rocky River watershed communities. Six watershed projects were funded, and watershed activities ran the gamut from simple education to opportunities for involvement in stream cleanups, tree plantings and workshops.

As the staff prepares for 2019, ideas are being generated and can be found posted around the office. Next year is going to be wild, in a good sense! Not only does it mark Cuyahoga SWCD’s 70th anniversary, it will be the 50th anniversary of the infamous Cuyahoga River Fire. It will be a year of collaboration, cooperation, interesting programs, and numerous events and celebrations. Many (conservation-oriented) national conferences will be in town and Cleveland will host the OFSWCD’s Summer Supervisor School. We are looking forward to an awesome year!

Best wishes to all. Enjoy the holidays.

Blog author: Janine Rybka, Director

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