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City Seeking Input on New Green Community Plan

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea City Seeking Input on New Green Community Plan
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On the first day of Christmas, Michael Coleman gave to you the five-year community sustainability plan. And just like when your mother used to insist you write your great aunt a card telling her how much you liked her Christmas present, the city hopes you will provide feedback on the sustainability plan before Dec. 17.

“For the first time, this plan is not just an internal city document,” said Mayor Coleman in a press release. “It was crafted for the community, by the community because it will take all of us working together to fully realize our vision for a green community that is beautiful, healthy and prosperous.”

Coleman’s first two five-year sustainability plans were released in 2005 and 2010. The plans ultimately led to the residential recycling service, the river restoration project, the use of cleaner-burning fuels in city vehicles and the start of the city’s CoGo bike share program.

The Mayor’s Office of Environmental Stewardship wrote the newest iteration of the sustainability plan over the last year with significant input from the community. Citizens can now review the full draft of the plan online and offer feedback so that the plan can be finalized and presented at the Columbus Metropolitan Club on Jan. 9.

The plan draft is 30 pages long and as one might expect from a government document, it is not particularly riveting. Still, given the results of the previous sustainability plans, it offers a vision of what the environmental future of Columbus may look like.

The first objective listed by the sustainability plan is to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from city operations and by 20% from the community over the next five years.”

Objective 2 under the plan’s climate change goals is a little more frightening; “Adapt to consequences of climate change through planning and preparation over the next five years.” This adaptation includes preparation for increased tornadoes, flooding and other extreme weather events as well as the creation of a Climate Preparedness Plan by 2017.

Just a friendly warning from the Ghost of Climates Yet to Come.

Other objectives in the sustainability plan draft include reducing community energy consumption by 20 percent, increasing the use of renewable energy to 10 percent, tripling the number of alternative fuel vehicles sold in Columbus, increasing the city’s tree canopy, eliminating invasive species and developing better community outreach on environmental issues, among other goals.

Specific actions laid out by the plan include developing community support for a passenger rail system to Fort Wayne and Chicago, expanding the GreenSpot Backyard Conservation Program, re-establishing the Waste Not Center for artists and teachers to reuse discarded materials, starting an “Adopt a Tree” program to fund tree plantings and exploring the possibility of restricting the local sale of nonnative invasive plant species.

One interesting objective of the plan is to “foster an appreciation for nature through experimental education opportunities.” These opportunities would include a sustainability-themed summer camp program, increased river recreational activities, expansion of the Columbus Green Walks Program and art installations using recycled materials or incorporating renewable signage. The expectation of this portion of the plan is similar to the mantra of national groups like the Sierra Club – a citizenry that enjoys and engages with nature will seek to protect it.

To that end, the city has opened the plan’s draft to the public so that citizens can participate in the conservation process. Remember to submit your feedback before Dec. 17 and help prevent the weather from becoming too frightful.

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