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History of Hillside Regulations in Cincinnati

In 2018, The Hillside Trust was invited by Chinese Professor Zheng Li, Phd in Landscape Architecture with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Lecturer in Landscape Architecture at Beijing Forestry University to write an article for the Beijing Forestry Journal on the history of hillside regulations for the City of Cincinnati. Professor Li was aware of Cincinnati’s history of hillside regulations and wanted The Hillside Trust to share its perspective on the subject. Professor Li believed that China could learn from Cincinnati’s experience as the significant size of his country’s population is causing more and more development of steeper topography for residential settlement.

Hillside Trust Executive Director, Eric Russo and then Hillside Trust Board member and geologist, Tim Agnello co-authored the article, which is available below.  The article is written in both English and Chinese. It provides an overview of Cincinnati’s settlement, highlighting earlier land use practices, such as wide spread deforestation of the hillsides and quarrying activities among other things that exacerbated the region’s slide-prone nature. The article covers the origins and evolution of Cincinnati’s hillside regulations, includes examples of major landslide incidents, and suggests ways in which Cincinnati’s regulations can be improved as the city moves forward into the 21st Century.


History of Cincinnati’s Wooded Hillsides

Stanley Hedeen, Xavier University Emeritus Professor of Biology, authored this article.

The Ohio River forms the 22-mile-long southern boundary of Cincinnati. The river valley wall rising up from the city’s shoreline is interrupted by the mouths of tributary valleys, the largest of which are the those of the Mill Creek and the Little Miami River. Downtown Cincinnati and other city neighborhoods share the basin at the mouth of the Mill Creek Valley while Lunken Airport covers the level bottomland at the mouth of the Little Miami Valley. Within the borders of the 78-square-mile city, the sides of the Mill Creek and Little Miami Valleys are incised by mouths of branch valleys while the slopes along the branch valleys are notched by ravines. The extensive dissection of Cincinnati’s landscape has created gradients of twenty percent or more over almost a fifth of the city’s surface.

Click here to download the PDF.

Eric Russo

Executive Director, The Hillside Trust

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