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EPA awards grant to Cleveland Botanical Garden to use vacant lots to protect water quality

CHICAGO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded $59,680 under its Urban Waters Small Grants program to the Cleveland Botanical Garden to improve vacant land in Cleveland neighborhoods and reduce stormwater runoff to Lake Erie and its tributaries. The Botanical Garden will cover 12 vacant lots with a mixture of dredge material, wood chips, and compost, and plant low-maintenance groundcover. These efforts will improve soil nutrient levels, reduce lead toxicity in soil, and reduce stormwater runoff.

The deep roots of low-maintenance lawns absorb more water than regular grass and stabilize soil, preventing erosion. The improved appearance of the lots will help stabilize neighborhoods and reduce the city’s maintenance costs associated with mowing and caring for vacant urban land.

“Ultimately, this grant allows us to strengthen Cleveland neighborhoods by taking vacant land and turning it into productive green space that people can enjoy,” said Natalie Ronayne, Executive Director of Cleveland Botanical Garden. “Finding creative ways to use empty urban lots is important for Cleveland and all major cities because it energizes people in communities that have seen so many houses and businesses abandoned. By adding urban farms, gardens and parks, we’re building vibrant, healthier neighborhoods and protecting our precious water resource — Lake Erie — at the same time.”

The goal of the Urban Waters program is to fund research, studies, training and demonstration projects that improve water quality through activities that also support community revitalization and other local priorities. This year, EPA has awarded $2.7 million to 46 organizations in 32 states and Puerto Rico.

In the upper Midwest region, Urban Waters Small Grants were also awarded to:
• Friends of the Chicago River, Chicago, which received $60,000 to increase public understanding and support of the natural value of the Chicago River and open space;
• The City of Indianapolis, which received $60,000 to promote watershed-friendly practices and encourage land owners and managers to take steps to reduce stormwater runoff;
• Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission, Green Bay, Wis., which received $59,995 to conduct water quality monitoring at Bay Beach in Green Bay to identify sources of pollution;
• The University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, Wis., which received $59,979 to establish a water quality and biota monitoring program to examine lead in marsh sediment.

More information about EPA’s Urban Waters program is available at www.epa.gov/urbanwaters/index.html.