Green Umbrella: Connecting the dots between trails, food, greenspace, and healthy workplaces

Green Umbrella convenes people and organizations working to improve the health of our region’s people, landscape, and climate impact. We connect education, non-profit, business, and government sectors, creating strong networks in times of crisis.

It has been awe-inspiring to see the increased demand for and appreciation of the community assets we have been helping to strengthen over the last decade, most notably a connected trail network, protected natural areas, and a robust local food system.

With gyms closed and less time at work, residents are finding recreation on our region’s trail network. Tri-State Trails compared the trail usage data from March 2019 to March 2020 and saw a huge increase in activity. On some trails the traffic tripled.

We want to increase the number of residents who can easily get on a trail by continuing to connect trails to each other. That’s why we are advocating to build out the CROWN, the Cincinnati Riding Or Walking Network, which will connect at least 356,000 people in 49 Cincinnati neighborhoods to schools, parks, healthcare, and jobs.

As spring unfolds, people are flocking to our parks, nature preserves, and other protected greenspaces. Time outside is providing us physical activity, mental clarity, opportunities for learning, and a break from being home 24/7. A few popular destinations have been seeing more people than is ideal given physical distancing.

Green Umbrella’s list of Greenspace Gems provides fresh ideas for natural destinations, helping residents spread out while they get outside. Our outdoor and environmental education partners have been sharing educational resources with teachers and families to help them engage students in fun learning while they are at home. How amazing would it be if a generation of passionate nature protectors emerged from this unexpected spring and summer?

Sales at local farmers markets are skyrocketing as people realize that buying directly from farmers and food artisans is safe, convenient, and reliable. This increased demand paired with social distancing has presented both challenges and opportunities for the local food system.

Green Umbrella’s Food Policy Council has helped farmers markets identify strategies for staying open and preparing for the summer season, when supply and demand will be at their peak. We are working on a coordinated approach so that market managers have the support they need to safely connect farmers to their customers. We have provided financial assistance to re-launch direct-to-household food delivery programs to support farmers who planned on selling their products to restaurants, schools, and institutions, which are currently closed. And you can help by expanding your local food purchasing by committing to a Community Supported Agriculture program. For more information, check out the 2020 CORV Guide.

As we all begin to contemplate what a return to work and school will look like in the coming months, the Cincinnati 2030 District is convening employers and building managers to think through what their new normal can look like. How can telecommuting continue to be part of the solution, not just for social distancing but for climate impact? How can the design and conditioning of spaces save energy and water (and therefore money) and slow the spread of COVID-19?

Now is a great time to become a part of Greater Cincinnati’s movement for sustainability, resiliency, and environmental quality. We are forming new collaborations focused on faith communities going green, the health impacts of housing quality, and how local governments of all sizes can get started on their environmental journey. We need your support to keep this transformative work going for our region. Find out how you can get involved and make a donation at greenumbrella.org.

Ryan Mooney-Bullock is the Executive Director of Green Umbrella. A Cincinnati native, Ryan lives with her husband and four children in the wilds of Spring Grove Village. During this unexpected season of homeschooling, she is thankful for the goats, chickens, dogs, cat, bees, birds, trees, and flowers that have brought a sense of abundance to social isolation.

Over the next few weeks, 
Soapbox will share work from community members and business owners regarding their thoughts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Have a story you’d like to share? Email [email protected] for consideration in an upcoming issue.
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