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NATURALLY GRATEFUL

The Thanksgiving table is just not grand enough to voice all blessings. But for many, just that one day of Thanksgiving sets in motion an attitude where gratitude more effortlessly comes to mind.

The Creator’s magnificent work, coupled with vision of community leaders, led to the founding of the Cleveland Metroparks a century ago. In a blog post, an avid biker, Ryan Stargell, praised the Euclid Creek and the Park that shares its name: “to wander, get lost in, take the bike trails, check out the scenery, enjoy the waterfalls. It's a Metropark, so it is beautifully maintained. You simply go and enjoy your oneness with nature.”

Euclid Creek is a neighbor to Euclid and North Collinwood. Creek water courses downhill through 34 miles of streams and 12 communities before flowing into Lake Erie at Wildwood Park. So there is reason to be curious about what’s happening upstream.

Jennifer Grieser of the Metroparks Urban Watersheds led a hike in November through the new Acacia Reservation. For nearly a century, these 155 acres were an exclusive country club of manicured fairways. In late 2012, Cleveland Metroparks acquired this open space within the shopping plazas through a generous donation from the Conservation Fund. This nonprofit restoration group envisioned the urban Acacia as a preserve of forests and scattered meadows dotted with open water areas allowing folks to connect with nature.

Regular watering kept the golf course green. The idea was to water early and drain quickly so golfers could play. To accomplish this, course managers constructed a system of drain tiles and spillways. Water, laden with harmful nutrients, flushed into Euclid Creek. Even worse during storms, runoff raced from acres of paved surfaces of the nearby shopping centers carrying contaminants and debris into an overwhelmed waterway.

Now the goal has changed to restoring the natural contours of the land. The plan calls for altering the manicured area to allow water to linger on the land filtering into the soil. The runoff that enters the Creek will have lost velocity so the banks are not scoured away.

Accordingly the underground drainage is being crushed or taken out. Earth moving tractors are fashioning some of the land features to provide a flood plain along Euclid Creek to allow storm water to soak in, rather than flash into the Creek.

A new ecosystem prompts native species to come and thrive. But can’t nature reclaim the terrain, just by itself? Yes, but with a little help. Jennifer Grieser of the Metroparks gave an example. She pointed to the close woven grass of the fairways. After decades of cultivation, the grass is as tightly entwined as a hand-woven Afghan rug. There are seeds of native grasses and plants long buried under this green carpet eager to break through. Help may be as simple as a pass from a tractor and disc to cut through the dense topping and allow dormant native flowers and grasses emerge.

Vast beds of Asters, Black-eyed Susans, Indian Blanket and other native wildflowers now drift across meadows that 2 years ago had been turf. These sprung from seeds the Metroparks sowed last year. Interestingly, in coming years, these species may themselves give way to yet other natives as succession continues.

Volunteers gathered in November to plant trees, mostly oaks, to give a boost to the re-forestation of the course. While maple trees have a way of reseeding themselves in Ohio, others native trees need to be in the mix to provide diverse and healthy stand of wood.

Giving back is part of this season. Following up on a volunteer interest is as easy as contacting Metropark Volunteer Services (volinfo@clevelandmetroparks.com or 440-253-2145). And the local advocacy group: Friends of Euclid Creek (cposius@cuyahogaswcd.org or 216-524-6580).

Up creek, thoughtful planning and volunteer sweat are lending a hand to nature on its way back in Acacia. Downstream in Collinwood and Euclid, improving water quality steadily allows native plants and fish to find a home in the neighborhood. Even more reasons to be grateful.

Blog Author: Patrick Henry, FOEC Board Member, Chair of Marketing Committee, City of Euclid resident, & Cleveland Metroparks Certified Watershed Steward

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