Cleveland Metroparks discuss sustainability initiatives at Green Bag Lunch talks

Anna Giubileo, Staff Reporter

Nancy Despond, special projects administrator at the Cleveland Metroparks, gave the last Green Bag Lunch of the semester this past Tuesday, speaking on sustainability and history at the Cleveland Metroparks. 

Hosted by the Case Western Reserve University Office of Energy & Sustainability, these discussions are opportunities for community members to gather together and hear about different topics relating to sustainability.

This week specifically focused on what the Cleveland Metroparks is doing to support a more sustainable city. Operating, as Desmond said, similar to a “small city,” the Metroparks were formerly farms, quarries, mills and roads before they were bought with the purpose of conservation, education and activity. The parks now collectively span over 23,600 acres and have many different sustainability initiatives. 

One initiative is their wildlife management program. While research shows that the Metroparks’ environment is best suited to having about 15 deer per square mile, current data collection shows that it is currently closer to 30 deer per square mile. With double the “recommended” number of deer, it has dire impacts on foliage, as well as the availability of resources for smaller animals in the Metroparks. The Metroparks countered this by having annual deer culling. Desmond explained this is done in “the most humane way possible,” with the Metroparks’ website clarifying that it is done using archery or sharpshooting. To date, the Metroparks has donated over 320,000 pounds of venison to the Cleveland Food Bank. 

Additionally, workers are focused on “rewilding the Cuyahoga.” When the shipping lines in the Cuyahoga River were created, all plants were removed, which resulted in negative impacts on fish life. By working to replace and replant the fish habitat, native fish populations are able to increase back to the proper numbers.

The Metroparks are also attempting to redesign parking lots and flatlands to be more environmentally friendly in the context of stormwater. Because of the increase in asphalt surfaces and the decrease in greenspaces, flooding is now becoming a much more common problem than in prior years. By redesigning parking lots so they’re slanted, it will encourage the running of rainwater toward garden areas planted around the edges, and more water will be reabsorbed into the ground, leaving less available for flooding.

The Metroparks has also been awarded the silver level of the “Bike Friendly Business” award after having made many changes to achieve such an honor. “We have a bike share at our offices, and we also put in showers so people would feel more comfortable biking to work in the summer. That was very important,” explained Desmond. 

The Green Bag Lunch talks will continue next semester, and they are a unique opportunity for students, faculty and community members to learn about sustainability initiatives within the wider community.