West Creek Conservancy protects green space in housing developments

by Laura Bednar

The demand for new housing has grown following pandemic lockdowns with a Forbes article stating one-third of U.S. single-family homes for sale in December 2021 were new construction.

Along with a boom in home development comes the need to maintain green space, which West Creek Conservancy has done with hundreds of homes across five Ohio counties.

Parma-based West Creek Conservancy is a nonprofit land conservancy that protects natural areas in Northeast Ohio through easements, reclaiming vacant urban land and facilitating trails and greenways, according to westcreek.org.

One of the organization’s projects is maintaining green space in new housing developments, most recently at the Mottl Reserve in Sagamore Hills. Jeff Snell, lawyer for Sagamore Hills Township, said Mottl Reserve, near the intersection of Houghton Road and Marymac Drive, has approximately 36 homes.

West Creek Executive Director Derek Schafer said the conservancy works with developers to preserve green space as is or in some cases make the space accessible with trails.

“It’s different on every property,” Schafer said. “It’s based on the ecological sensitivity and environment in general.”

On the Mottl Reserve, West Creek protected natural resources, including the Sagamore Creek. Schafer said the organization acts as third-party management rather than putting the responsibility in the hands of a homeowner’s association or residents.

“We are a third-party check and balance,” said Schafer. “We see that green space is synthesized with development.”

One of the main goals is to ensure property boundaries are adhered to. Schafer said some green spaces might need invasive species control, tree management or reforestation. As West Creek has a staff of four, services of that size are contracted out. Residents are sometimes asked to help with smaller fixes such as planting a tree.

Residents are introduced to the conservation program when buying their homes. Schafer explained that West Creek receives one-fourth of 1% of each home sale. These funds are used to maintain green space, including land surveys, boundary marker posts and legally defending the space if need be.

“What we try to do is send a mailer telling residents how to organically manage their yard,” he said. West Creek’s phone number is on every boundary marker post if residents have questions.

The nonprofit usually gets involved in the early development stages after a developer has plotted out the land. Schafer said West Creek doesn’t have to look for developers. “They find us,” he said, adding that many of the partnerships are with those whom West Creek has a long-standing relationship.

Schafer said by having a third party maintain the green space, it takes the burden off the municipal partners, ensures regulatory requirements are met and protects the space in perpetuity. ∞