Healthy Watersheds Help Communities Thrive

West Creek Conservancy's preservation efforts restore unsustainably developed lands to a natural state, thus improving watershed functionality.

West Creek Conservancy, formerly West Creek Preservation Committee, formed in 1997 when several concerned Parma citizens began meeting at a local library to discuss preserving the area’s greenspace and improving its accessibility to the public. Following the creation of West Creek Reservation, now managed by the Cleveland Metroparks, the organization recognized the need for its land conservation and watershed restoration services. Over the past 22 years, West Creek Conservancy (WCC) has expanded its reach into five Northeast Ohio counties, yet its mission has remained the same: protection, restoration and connection. “We acquire land to protect it, restore its functional integrity, and then we connect it to the people,” said WCC Executive Director Derek Schafer.

The restoration of watersheds goes beyond preserving outdoor spaces for the community. Watersheds are also essential for protecting wildlife, minimizing flood damage and offsetting heat and pollution. WCC’s preservation efforts often require restoring unsustainably developed lands to a natural state in order to restore watershed functionality. “You’re going to pay for sustainability whether you want to or not. Either you’ll be doing it upfront to create a thriving community or later with reactionary mitigating tactics, which is often much more expensive and detrimental to the region,” Schafer said. The Parma-based organization has found power in partnerships to fulfill its mission. Some of their common partners include the Cleveland Metroparks, Parma, Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. The role the WCC plays varies based on the needs of each individual project and the partners involved. The organization’s efforts have been widely successful. Its work in Parma to create accessible greenspace has done more than beautify the city. Ecological change has led to a positive economic impact, seen through the flourishing of Parma’s housing market near West Creek Reservation.

This year, WCC was awarded “Outstanding Supporting Organization” by The National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials. Cleveland Metroparks nominated WCC for this award, citing its impactful work, local connection-building abilities and public-private partnerships catalyzed by local citizens. “The Conservancy is a great partner in helping provide a unique experience in an urban setting while at the same time protecting our greenspace, streams and flood plains,” said Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter.

Currently, WCC is focused on a project in partnership with Cuyahoga County and the City of Parma regarding the demolition and restoration of the former Parmadale property, which will be transitioned into public greenspace. Following demolition, the 80 acres will be integrated into the West Creek Reservation. “The Parmadale project holds promise for restoring our ecological assets and converting a large tract of abandoned property into a beautiful public park. When complete, I think it would also be a great home for a dog park, which is something our residents have requested,” DeGeeter said. “This is a nice second phase for the Parmadale property – to open it up for the public. It’s great for our city and our region.”

Schafer said the addition of the former Parmadale land to the West Creek Reservation will create new access to the reservation for thousands of citizens. It will also remove a significant amount of impervious surface, decreasing stress on local waterways and infrastructure. “A healthy watershed creates a healthy community,” Schafer said. “It all comes down to water.”

Carolyn Kovach

Claudia Syphens

Communications Intern, City of Parma, Mayor's Office

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Volume 12, Issue 1, Posted 1:50 PM, 01.01.2020