Wetland Restoration Creating
Urban Oasis for People, Wildlife
What was once a heavily commercialized site has now been restored to a natural state, with the entrenched creek liberated, native trees and shrubs planted, and a six-acre wetland created.
In the 1950s and 1960s, when Granger Road in the city of Independence was developed, little attention was paid to West Creek. Its floodplains and wetlands were filled. What had been a meandering creek was shunted into a straight channel. On a 10-acre site bisected by the creek, developers built a large parking lot and a store, which later became a warehouse. When the development was finished, impervious surfaces covered 85 percent of the site. As a result, the property became a major conduit of non-point source pollution into West Creek, the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie. During heavy rains, water ran so quickly through the creek that it scoured away aquatic species and habitat. With the site susceptible to heavy flooding and in need of restoration, the West Creek Preservation Committee and its partners purchased the site after the last tenant moved out. After buying the property, the coalition demolished the building and removed the blacktop. The group has worked to restore West Creek’s floodplain, wetlands, and stream bank.
Resource Challenges Addressed
- Lack of native habitat
- Excessive runoff
- Disrupted natural flow of a creek
WEST CREEK CONFLUENCE
Location: Independence, Ohio
Approximate cost: $2.2 million for the site acquisition and $2.3 million for the restoration work
Key partners: The West Creek Preservation Committee, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, the City of Independence, the Clean Ohio Greenspace Program, the Federal Scenic Byway Program, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Resource Restoration Sponsorship Program, the George Gund Foundation, and the Trust for Public Land.
Types of jobs created: Demolition, engineering and design, and construction.
Results and Accomplishments
In May of 2013 about 80,000 yards of dirt was removed to give the entrenched creek room to meander. 1,000 linear feet of the riverbank that was formerly covered in large stones, concrete, and rebar was restored. A six-acre wetland complex with an oxbow was added to provide habitat for animals and to absorb flood waters as necessary. Northern pike, walleye, steelhead, and smallmouth bass have all returned. Over 6,000 native trees and shrubs have been planted with 4,000 more planned for the spring of 2014. The vegetation will filter pollutants and the project will reduce the amount of storm water leaving the site. What’s more, the site will be publicly accessible, and provide a point of access to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad once it is running and will eventually connect to the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail.