The above photo is of flooding in Loveland on February 25, 2018

“The notion of the common good also extends to future generations.

– Richard Rohr

Lauren Enda lives in Loveland at Hidden Creek

by Lauren Enda

Weather is changing in Ohio. According to Cincinnati’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, Ohio is getting hotter, wetter, and suffering with more extreme weather and periodic droughts. More storms and more rain increase runoff and flooding. Hamilton County has had nine 100-year storms in the last 10 years. This is a startling statistic and should be troubling for everyone, especially those who live near water. Therefore, the city of Loveland should be looking very closely at what, and how much, is developed. Replacing permeable surfaces (grass, gravel, earth) with impervious surfaces (concrete and asphalt) are a major cause of flooding in urban areas. This article will present a high-level overview of the environmental risks associated with the proposed parking garage.

The proposed parking garage for Historic Downtown as envisioned by City Hall.

What happens when we heedlessly and perhaps needlessly, dig out trees, remove soil, disturb the water tables, and pour tons of concrete without appropriate studies? Replacing permeable surfaces with impervious surfaces could lead to unwanted and dangerous side effects.

Most dangerous to the residents and businesses of Loveland is water runoff and flooding. According to the United States Geological Survey, “…rainfall in forested watersheds is absorbed into soils, stored as groundwater, and slowly discharged to streams… Flooding is less significant in these more natural conditions because some of the runoff during a storm is absorbed into the ground, thus lessening the amount of runoff into a stream… As watersheds are urbanized, much of the vegetation is replaced by impervious surfaces, thus reducing the area where infiltration to groundwater can occur. More simply, in a developed watershed, much more water arrives into a stream much more quickly, resulting in an increased likelihood of more frequent and more severe flooding.”1

The Linda Cox Trailside Parking lot in February 2018

The Little Miami River and O’Bannon Creek could be at risk. Studying runoff, flooding and erosion in and near the Linda J. Cox parking lot may be a good place to start before Loveland adds more concrete or asphalt downtown. The increasing number and severity of storm events is not going away, but will worsen, raising the flood risk even higher. Can we afford to have more flood events? Is Loveland prepared for, or even starting to prepare for, this eventuality? 

But flooding is not the only problem with water running from a massive parking garage into the Little Miami. The water itself brings contaminants from paved parking surfaces like oil, leaking brake fluid, antifreeze, and trash, which are then put directly into the river. The summary of a 2014 report in the journal “Environmental Challenges” quotes that, “Impervious car park surfaces represent a major source of urban water pollution.”2

The risk of increased flooding and contaminated runoff are bad enough, but the proposed garage will bring pollution to Loveland in other ways. 

  • Air pollution: More cars downtown will mean more exhaust fumes rising into the air. 
  • Noise pollution: More traffic and more cars will bring more noise to our tranquil downtown.
  • Light pollution: Parking garages are magnets for crime and other undesirable activities and therefore must be extremely well lit – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This light pollution will destroy the picturesque nighttime setting we currently enjoy.
The smoggy Loveland horizon from Loveland High School during an Air Pollution Alert in July of 2016

An additional, but by no means trivial, impact on our environment, is the concrete itself. Concrete has a massive carbon footprint, which is concerning if we care about the future of our children and grandchildren. According to a 2018 report by the BBC, “Concrete is the most widely used man-made material in existence. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest (carbon dioxide) emitter in the world – behind China and the US.”3 Let’s not make uninformed or hasty decisions about building with a material that is so hurtful to the environment.

Finally, expanses of concrete or asphalt create what is called a “micro-climate: “The climate of a small, specific place within an area as contrasted with the climate of the entire area.”4 According to multiple studies, urban areas with paved surfaces are hotter than the surrounding areas by as much as 7 degrees. We have all witnessed this phenomenon when standing in a parking lot in the summer. Does Loveland want to introduce a “heat island” to our downtown?

“Success can be measured in different ways.”

Loveland resident Lauren Enda

I do not claim to be an environmental scientist, a climate expert, or a soil or water conservation guru. Perhaps as a community we can learn more about the current, and future, environmental impacts of today’s decisions. What will these decisions look like in 2030 or 2040 when the problems facing Loveland will perhaps be much larger than simply having to park a block further away? Will our children be glad for more concrete, or will they wish for a safer, cleaner, more sustainable Loveland? Success can be measured in different ways.

An unbiased environmental study by experts who will not benefit with the building of the proposed garage would help Loveland make decisions for today, and for our future, in an uncertain and changing world.  


  1. Runoff: Surface and Overland Water Runoff (usgs.gov)
  2. The sources, impact and management of car park runoff pollution: A review – ScienceDirect
  3. Climate change: The massive CO2 emitter you may not know about – BBC News
  4. Microclimate – definition of microclimate by The Free Dictionary

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