By: Greg Kutsko
A watershed project is continuing to gain momentum and success on the south side of the greater Cleveland, Ohio area. The West Creek Preservation Committee, a community-based non-profit environmental group, has been spearheading an initiative for urban land protection in the neighborhoods of one of Ohio’s most populated areas, located in the West Creek Watershed.
Framed by neighborhoods, the West Creek Watershed is 14 sq. miles with a population of approximately 37,000 people. West Creek travels through the West Creek Preserve and then through the communities of Parma, Seven Hills, Brooklyn Heights, and Independence, in a journey resplendent with scenes of steep shale cliffs, and scenic woodland vistas. At its mouth the waters of West Creek are joined with the waters of the Cuyahoga River.
The goal of the West Creek Preservation Committee is to protect the entire run of West Creek, creating a vibrant greenway system that would link the surrounding communities with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath System. The group has worked to accomplish this goal in a variety of ways.
In 1998 and 2000, the voters of Parma passed a measure to provide funding for the purchase of approximately 160 acres of woodland with the intention of conserving this area as a part of the West Creek Preserve. The Preserve will anchor a network of Greenways, which will link it to other regional parks such as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Cleveland Metroparks’ Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation, as well as neighborhoods, schools, and business districts.
Today, the West Creek Greenway System consists of 263 acres, but the vision of the West Creek Preserve and Greenway has evolved to include up to 500 acres of riparian corridor, wetlands, and upland forest as a new nature preserve and passive recreation area in the heart of a densely developed and populated community. Funding has been secured to acquire an additional 128 acres, and negotiations are currently in progress for these acquisitions.
The West Creek Preserve has much to offer as a place to appreciate the beauty and mystery of nature, as well as a place to exercise the body and the mind. Educational opportunities abound in the Preserve. Dr. George Wilder of Cleveland State University identifies and inventories plant species – some rare to this area, as he conducts an on going flora and fauna study in the West Creek Preserve. In the spring of 2002 Professor Terry Greathouse of Cuyahoga Community College Western Campus enlisted his students to plan for and implement the restoration of a wetlands in the Preserve entrance area to serve as a working example of natural water purification.
Even in it’s infancy, the West Creek Preserve has become the focus of a number of environmentally diverse projects carried out by both groups and individuals. As such, the West Creek Preserve enjoys a variety of support from the community.
The West Creek Preservation Committee is a community based, non-profit environmental group serving the neighborhoods of the West Creek Watershed. Our mission is to conserve, protect, and enhance the natural, historical, and recreational resources of the West Creek Watershed through the creation of a nature preserve, greenway, and recreation trail network, providing an enhanced quality of life for present and future generations.