Four varying pictures have been painted depicting northeast Ohio in the year 2040. Now residents, community leaders and elected officials are studying the options and deciding which picture is the most liveable for them.
Tuesday, dozens of local residents turned out for open houses in Warren and Youngstown where maps, graphics and videos displayed four very different scenarios depicting the future outlook for northeast Ohio. Visitors studied the information and recorded their thoughts as they worked their way through the exhibits, all part of a three-year experiment coordinated by the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium, or the NEOSCC.
Established in 2011, the NEOSCC operates with a $4.25 million federal U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant created to develop a regional sustainability plan. The NEOSCC is developing that plan for things like land use, transportation, economic and workforce development, infrastructure and green space, all for a 12-county span that includes Trumbull and Mahoning.
Tuesday, open house attendee Linda Kostka said parks and environment were high on her priority list. Kostka, development and marketing director for Mill Creek MetroParks, looked closely at maps depicting green space in Mahoning County.
"The quality of life is so important. It's important to maintain the green space for residents just for quality of life issues," Kostka said.
Others at the events were more focused on issues like population growth, economic development, transportation and housing.
Studies indicate if northeast Ohio communities continue on the current path that has included significant outward migration of residents, job growth will be modest and population will continue to drop leaving the equivalent of 18 homes abandoned per day throughout the 12-county area.
That, experts say, means there is much work to be done on redirecting the area's future.
No matter what the desire, Hunter Morrison, director for NEOSCC, said he is pleased with the focus of the residents who have turned out to offer their thoughts.
"The people who do come spend the time to engage and answer the questions," Morrison said. "Our goal is to come forward with a preferred scenario to frame a bright future for northeast Ohio from all the different forms of input."
And as for the opinion of the group behind the study, they are remaining neutral.
"For us, it's about gathering feedback," said Jeff Anderly, deputy director. "I think that things will start to come into a clear focus in late October and September through these meetings."
That's when the group will begin a new series of meetings to share the outcome of their research and make recommendations to elected officials who hopefully will take the ideas to heart.