Land Bank Partners with Educator for ‘Ecoscaping’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Mahoning County Land Bank is partnering with Danielle Lewis, a sustainability scientist, naturalist and educator, to develop more environmentally and economically sustainable greening strategies.

The Land Bank uses greening and landscaping efforts to repurpose vacant, abandoned and blighted land to make it productive again, and now it’s looking to incorporate native plants, which bring environmental, financial and sustainable benefits.

Lewis and her company, Exist Consulting LLC, help cities and nonprofit organizations with native plant restoration, biodiversity and green engineering practices. With a background in wildlife management and environmental education, she applies best practices for “ecoscaping,” or taking an urban environment and adding natural landscaping to it.

“There are many benefits to implementing native species into green infrastructure, which can include trees, bushes and plants,” said Lewis. “Native plants are beneficial to local birds and pollinators, as well as other wildlife, and they require lower cost for upkeep. More importantly, ecoscaping is beneficial for our overall health. Trees take up carbon dioxide and pollution and also help with stormwater management. There are so many benefits to adding green to our gray infrastructure.”

Lewis recently developed a greening guide for the Land Bank.

“I got to know the Land Bank’s properties well and I incorporated my research and knowledge of the local area to develop this guide, which will help them implement native plants and ecoscaping strategies into real-world application,” she added.

Lewis is working with the Land Bank to apply these strategies to a project on the North Side of Youngstown.

“We plan to use native pollinators to create a pollinator garden,” said Lewis. “We’ll also add bushes to serve as natural barriers and we plan to build a tower for chimney sweeps, a threatened bird species, so we’ll have a bird conservation there, too. We’re going to be able to showcase some of the awesome stuff we came up with in the greening guide, on a small scale, and serve as an example for future projects.”

In addition to doing consulting work, Lewis is a faculty member of Youngstown State University’s Department of Geography. She also serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA director of outdoor education in Youngstown City Schools.

“We’re very excited about this partnership with Danielle,” said Debora Flora, Land Bank executive director. “As we continue to do more and more greening work, we saw this as a great investment for our long-term efforts, as it’ll save us time and money in the long run, while adding value to our community and environment.”

Pictured above: Danielle Lewis takes light readings under Japanese knotweed, a highly invasive species from Asia, while inspecting one of the Land Bank’s properties. Lewis is working with the Land Bank to implement more sustainable greening strategies.

SOURCE: Mahoning County Land Bank.

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