An Outpouring Of Opportunities

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / petermooij

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / petermooij

When the Stark County Park District in Canton, Ohio, in creating a Countywide Trail and Greenway Plan to expand its park system, built a 300-mile network of recreational trails, it could not have foreseen that preserving and restoring flood plains would become a valuable strategy in reaching its goals. But such has been the case. In the last 8 years, the district—which serves 375,000 rural and urban residents 1 hour south of Cleveland—has become the “go-to” agency for removal of flood-prone properties from flood plains. In exchange, the district receives the cleared land and preserves it in perpetuity as recreational green space, and some of it is used for hiking and biking trails.

Removing properties from floodplains:

  • Reduces or permanently eliminates future risk to lives and property
  • Reduces or eliminates claims under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
  • Returns thousands of tax dollars to the community
  • Implements projects in accordance with state, federal, and local priorities.

Among the benefits of removing such properties:

  • Properties that might otherwise deteriorate from repeated flooding and become abandoned are removed, preserving nearby property values.
  • Owners and their lenders are compensated, allowing families to relocate to safer homes.
  • With an expanded flood plain close by, adjacent neighbors’ homes are less likely to flood during future rains. Local appraisers, demolition contractors, and real-estate companies benefit from increased business, and the park district fulfills its environmental mission.

A Steady Stream Of Properties

The park district’s role in preserving flood plains began in 2003 when a countywide drainage task force was convened, and participants realized that many of the proposed hiking and bicycling trails could appropriately be located in flood plains, whose other uses are severely limited. Two years later, the agency was asked to oversee removal of private residences from a flood plain near county-owned property along SandyCreek in a small rural community. Of 20 homeowners initially approached to participate in the voluntary

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / JBicking

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / JBicking

federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), only three residents signed up. Those property owners were paid for their homes based on state-approved appraisals, and the homes were demolished. Five parcels totaling 1.4 acres became green space. Seventy-five percent of the funds for the $365,000 project came from the federal government, while 12.5 percent came from the state of Ohio, and 12.5 percent came from the park district, much of the latter being in-kind administrative services.

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