Part of Great Parks of Hamilton County’s mission is to preserve and protect natural resources.
That mission extends to educating the public about the importance of natural resource conservation and ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle. For this reason, sustainability is a guiding value of the organization, and it is incorporated into all decision making and day-to-day processes.
Recreational fishing is one way that a large segment of visitors to Great Parks interact with nature. However, as Greater Cincinnati becomes more suburbanized and less agricultural in nature, recreational fishing needs a boost in excitement to attract young people. In order to make this connection, Great Parks is working on a new initiative to provide fish for stocking that will ensure that the experience will be exciting enough to compete with video games and other activities that compete for kids’ attention.
This initiative is Great Park’s Aquaculture Program. The species targeted for production is the hybrid bluegill, which has a reputation as the fish that will bite on nearly anything and offer a vigorous fight. These fish are actually a cross between two native species: green sunfish and northern bluegill.
Great Parks has made a commitment to grow these fish in three, specially constructed culture ponds at Miami Whitewater Forest. Construction was completed in fall of 2009. The project enables fish to be stocked for public enjoyment at less than half of the cost that they can be purchased. Production can be achieved with such savings partly due to donated labor feeding and caring for the fish by volunteers in parks. A second reason is the savings in transportation cost. Did you know that to ship one pound of live fish, you must also ship between 8 and 16 pounds of water? Purchasing small fish, then growing them locally saves shipping cost and reduces fossil fuel usage.
Electric & Hybrid Vehicles
Great Parks has reduced its fleet overall, while replacing older, less-efficient cars with hybrid models. Currently, the park district has several hybrid vehicles in its fleet. When practical, Great Parks is phasing in all-electric utility carts and hybrid or electric equipment as replacements for carts and equipment with internal combustion engines. This includes all-electric off-road vehicles to assist with natural resource management tasks.
Green Building Design
The Winton Woods Campground Office, built in 2009, features many green building practices, such as geothermal heating and cooling, dual flush toilets, sensor faucets, high-efficiency hand dryers, recycled metal roofing (reflective material decreases energy costs for cooling) and certified lumber and wood products, as well as rain gardens to filter parking lot runoff.
The Miami Whitewater Forest Campground shower building and building upgrades at Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve also incorporate many green features, such as low-flow plumbing fixtures, energy-efficient lighting fixtures and use of natural lighting, high-efficiency water heaters, a water bottle filling station and the use of green building materials and low-VOC paints and adhesives.
In spring 2016, Great Parks completed the installation of a rooftop solar array at the Winton Woods central operations maintenance building. The 52 kilowatt system is expected to generate an annual average of 63,000 kilowatt hours of energy, reducing the annual energy consumption at this facility by 95% and offsetting approximately 2.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide over the next 25 years.
The solar project at Winton Woods will ultimately lead to additional solar projects at other facilities, resulting in greater energy savings and emission reductions for the park district. The project was funded by generous grants from the Great Parks Foundation, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the Robert H. Reakirt Foundation, PNC Bank, Trustee.
Want to see the energy savings in action? Click below!
The Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District awarded Great Parks of Hamilton County with a $10,560 2015 District Priority Grant to assist Great Parks with an innovative waste reduction and recycling program. The funding was used to provide 75 50-gallon recycling containers in 17 parks. The additional containers led to a 43% reduction in trash in 2016!
Great Parks partners with Rumpke Recycling to divert waste generated by park users from landfills by offering 83 recycling containers and 14 large totes in high-traffic areas throughout the parks.
All disposable paper and plastic-ware at Great Parks snack bars contains 24–100% recycled content. Using post-consumer recycled products reduces the amount of material bound for the waste stream, saving 3,025 pounds of paper and plastic from the landfill every year.
Sustainable Land Use
More than 80% of Great Parks’ 17,600 acres of land are managed as natural areas to preserve bio-diversity and promote wildlife diversity. Preserving wetlands, forests and streams provide benefits to the entire community, including improvements to air and water quality.
Great Parks also practices "mindful mowing" of the parks' public areas. Reducing the amount of mowing reduces associated fuel and labor costs, which can be directed towards more detailed care of our many recreational facilities and outdoor education areas. These more natural areas also serve as woodland, meadow and grassland habitats for local wildlife.
Great Parks is a proud leader of the regional Taking Root reforestation campaign. The initiative was created in response to the ongoing threat on our region’s trees created by hostile bugs, invasive plants and destructive fungus. By planting trees, we can reduce the threat and help grow a healthy and diverse tree environment. Great Parks pledged to plant 60,000 trees by 2016 as part of the overall goal of two million for the region by 2020. On October 22, 2016, Great Parks exceeded that goal by planting its 100,000th tree.
Great Parks is always looking for ways to reduce water consumption, especially at its seven golf courses. One way to accomplish this is through irrigation technology improvements at all courses for efficient system management and monitoring. A moisture meter is being tested at The Vineyard Golf Course to reduce water consumption and save labor on hand watering. Great Parks is also studying the use of a water retention and penetration agent at Little Miami Golf Center. This agent will reduce utility consumption up to 30% (water and electric) as well as reducing chemical treatments needed for poor turf conditions and turf diseases.
Improving water quality is another important objective. Bioswales were installed at Winton Woods as well as the dog parks at both Otto Armleder Memorial Park and Miami Whitewater Forest. Rain gardens were installed at Winton Woods (Parky’s Farm, Winton Centre, campground), Shawnee Lookout (bird viewing area), Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve and Sharon Woods. These spots serve as filters for stormwater water to keep pollutants out of our local streams, rivers and lakes.