More than 100 attend inaugural Etna Ecodistrict meeting
Following the Millvale Ecodistrict Plan’s success, more than 100 Etna residents gathered March 7 to discuss launching their own plan.
Robert Tunon, Rothschild Doyno Collaborative Architecture and Urban Design associate, led the Fugh Hall meeting. The Etna resident is spearheading the project as a volunteer.
“An ecodistrict is about organizing around improving the places that we love, understanding the processes that go through those places — those environments — and then the way that we organize ourselves in order to do better,” said Christine Mondor, sustainable architecture and consulting firm evolveEA strategic principal.
Anna Rosenblum, evolveEA project manager, said that Etna’s plan would concentrate on energy, food, water, air, mobility and equity — the same area’s as Millvale’s plan.
She said that energy could mean analyzing how people power their homes and businesses and could reduce their energy bills. Planners will investigate energy retrofits and possible solar panel installation. Water involves the borough’s relationship to its riverfront, residents’ water usage and flood prevention. Planners will analyze residents’ access to nutritious, affordable food and the Garden of Etna. Mobility is associated with transit lines, highways and pedestrian access. Both indoor and outdoor air quality are included within the air category, and Rosenblum defined equity as “providing access to resources and opportunities to improve quality of life.”
“An ecodistrict takes small and quick and low-cost efforts and says, ‘How do we advance those and act together to think bigger and better and leverage our efforts towards bigger goals that we couldn’t accomplish ourselves?’ ” said Mondor.
For instance, she said that residents using rain barrels may reduce water runoff on residential properties, but a storm water management program, such as the Etna Green Streetscape Plan, can aggregate changes on a larger level.
“This year, we are focusing on team building and education,” Tunon said. “We really want to get a better understanding of the issues and the things that affect sustainability here.”
To that end, residents completed surveys regarding the ecodistrict’s areas of emphasis and the impact that aspects relating to energy, food, water, air, mobility and equity have on their lives.
Additionally, people placed stickers on maps to designate their favorite locations within the borough. Organizers also asked attendees to write on sticky notes one word that came to mind when they thought of Etna. Volunteers placed the notes on the wall in a giant, vision board-formation. “Home” and “friendly” were the most popular choices.
Tunon said that the leaders will initiate the ecodistrict planning process, while gaining community input.
Representatives from borough organizations highlighted their successes over the past year, discussed upcoming projects and shared ways for attendees to get involved. Speakers included: Mary Ellen Ramage, borough manager; Ed Burke, councilman; Pete Ramage, Etna Economic Development Corp. president; Mary Macecevic, corporation treasurer; Diane Sheridan, Etna Neighborhood Association president; Megan Tunon, councilwoman and association member; Tom Quigley, The Garden of Etna founder, and David Bulman, Quickhatch Coffee + Food owner.
Brian Wolovich, social enterprise incubator New Sun Rising co-founder, said that for the past 15 months, Etna, Millvale and Sharpsburg leaders have collaborated on the Triboro Ecodistrict project.
Each municipality has coordinated on the plan, yet retained autonomy.
The Triboro Ecodistrict is a New Sun Rising project. In Etna, Robert Tunon, Mary Ellen Ramage, the Etna Economic Development Corp. and Eco are leading the program. Wolovich will serve as the director and try to secure funding. EvolveEA also will assist with the project.
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.