Northeast Ohio has an amazing new place to learn how to take care of water—the Watershed Stewardship Center at Cleveland Metroparks West Creek Reservation. The center combines research, education, and community action to promote the protection of urban watersheds. The slideshow below shows many of the center’s stormwater management features and exhibits.
Stormwater runoff has emerged as the biggest water quality problem facing Northeast Ohio cities today. When there’s a big rain, the water rushes off hard surfaces like roads, parking lots, and rooftops. The water flows into storm sewers with a load of pollutants, and then the storm sewers dump the dirty water into streams and Lake Erie. This is also a water quantity problem. Surges of stormwater scour stream beds, erode stream banks, and harm aquatic life. Erosion can undermine roads and other infrastructure. Homes and businesses can be flooded.
The solution is to retrofit the urban landscape—reducing impervious surfaces and creating more opportunities for rainwater to soak naturally into the ground. In recent years, many organizations and programs around the region have begun to promote such stormwater management techniques. Now these efforts have a home at the Watershed Stewardship Center at West Creek.
The center, which opened in June 2013, is the result of a unique partnership between Cleveland Metroparks, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), and the West Creek Conservancy, the visionary citizens group that preserved the land that has become the Metroparks West Creek Reservation in Parma.
The center has a number of roles:
- Visitor center for the 324-acre West Creek Reservation, with exhibits, community meeting room, and classrooms.
- Demonstration site for stormwater management techniques. Around the building is the region’s most comprehensive collection of ways to reduce stormwater runoff — a visible system that collects all the stormwater from the site.
- Research center and laboratory for testing and improving stormwater management methods.
- Headquarters for the Watershed Volunteer Program, which trains citizens to become Certified Watershed Stewards with the skills to restore watersheds.
- Demonstration of green building. The center is expected to earn a LEED Gold designation from the U.S. Green Building Council.
- Office space for Metroparks and NEORSD watershed education staff members, ecologists, natural resource management professionals, and watershed organizations.
Together, the facility and its programming will help change thinking in Northeast Ohio about land and water, inspiring the ecological restoration of the regional landscape.