Citizens' Bioregional Plan

In recent years we've seen a growing level of concern about unsustainable development patterns in our metropolitan region. People don't like what's happening to their communities both in the
urban core and out in the country. They are alarmed at the environmental, social and economic costs of sprawl and outmigration. They understand that, in the words of Richard Moe of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, "Development that destroys communities and the places people care about isn't progress. It's chaos."

What many people don't often understand is how things could be different. They lack mental images of more desirable patterns of land use. They have a hard time imagining methods that could change development patterns. Moreover, they lack a vision of the bioregion-a landscape knitted together by natural systems rather than a region divided by cities and counties.

To help the citizens of Northeast Ohio envision alternative land use futures, EcoCity Cleveland developed the Citizens' Bioregional Plan. The project, mapped out a positive vision for future development in the seven-county region a vision based on innovative concepts of "bioregional zoning." It included a two-year process of public meetings and outreach to community groups and planning agencies. And it created tools for public education based on the latest computer mapping (GIS) technology, a full-color publication for citizens and policy makers, a media campaign, and a Web site. The final plan was released at a Citizens' Bioregional Congress in Cleveland on May 15, 1999.

The bioregional plan is helping citizens ask important questions, such as:

  • What lands are at risk to be developed in the next decade?
  • Where might a regional greenbelt (an outer Emerald Necklace) be created by a joint effort of the region's metropark districts?
  • Where should new development be concentrated for greater density and mixed uses?
  • How could the building industry's legitimate need for buildable land be satisfied in the most sustainable manner possible?
  • Where should transportation improvements be focused to promote increased density of development and reduced vehicle miles traveled?
  • How might natural areas be consolidated and connected to maximize biodiversity?
  • What special farmland resources should be protected?

The bioregional plan is making these questions part of the public dialogue. It has attracted both local and national media attention, including favorable mention in a column by syndicated writer Neal Peirce. The project demonstrates how a nonprofit organization like EcoCity Cleveland can go beyond the jurisdictional constraints of public planning agencies in a fragmented region, use the latest planning and communications technologies, and lead a citizen-based discussion about more sustainable patterns of settlement.

Over the next several years, EcoCity Cleveland will be working with many partners to implement the bioregional plan. For instance, we hope to get the plan adopted as the official framework for transportation planning in the region, and we will be working with local metropark districts on cooperative strategies for regional open space preservation.

The Citizen's Bioregional Plan project was supported by grants from local foundations (George Gund Foundation, Cleveland Foundation, Abington Foundation, Cyrus Eaton Foundation) and the members of EcoCity Cleveland. Development of an Internet Web site with interactive computer mapping capability was funded by U.S. EPA. Geographic information system software was provided by ESRI.



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EcoCity Cleveland
3500 Lorain Avenue, Suite 301, Cleveland OH 44113
Cuyahoga Bioregion
(216) 961-5020
Copyright 2002-2003

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