Nature Conservancy springs into local restoration project to include 5,200 new trees, habitat rehab
by Laura Bednar
A restoration project spanning 170 acres of land, many of which are in Sagamore Hills Township, will begin this spring with tree planting. The Nature Conservancy is leading the project in partnership with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, The Conservancy for CVNP and Sagamore Hills to reforest and restore wetlands on property located on the north side of Valley View Road, across from where Chaffee Road ends.
According to the project outline, the partners will reverse human-engineered changes to the land resulting from agriculture and “re-establish headwater wetlands and restore headwater streams.” The property previously had been used for agriculture, and field drainage tiles and stream channelization, as well many invasive plant species, are evident throughout the site.
The Nature Conservancy works across the state on restoration initiatives, from land stewardship to securing funding for larger restoration projects. In Northeast Ohio, the group works primarily in the Cuyahoga and Grand River watersheds, and much of the work supports land conservation.
Ann Gilmore, Northeast Ohio restoration manager for The Nature Conservancy, said her predecessor saw this opportunity while working with the CVNP to identify restoration projects. The partnership began in 2018 with the purpose of supporting restoration work in the park and in the larger Cuyahoga River watershed.
The project will take place within a large preserve. Sagamore Hills, over about 20 years, purchased 192 acres of property from the Ohio Department of Mental Health through the Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization, and in collaboration with CVNP and the Cleveland Metro Parks, who purchased the remaining area. This preserved more than 450 acres of greenspace, according to the township website.
Sagamore owns 70% of the property involved in the project and the remainder belongs to the CVNP. The Ohio Department of Mental Health’s Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare previously used the property for farming, and while mostly forested, there are some fields undergoing succession – or the change of vegetation through time – according to Gilmore.
The Nature Conservancy received two grants towards funding the project, the first from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Sustain Our Great Lakes program. The grant stated, “This green stormwater project will control invasive species and capture 543,000 gallons of stormwater annually, stabilize soils, filter pollutants and connect to larger forest habitat by planting 5,200 trees.”
The grant funds will support the reforestation of 40 acres of land. Gilmore said there will be volunteer opportunities for Sagamore residents and the public to plant trees starting mid-April and again in the fall. Those interested can contact Andrew O’Leary from the Conservancy for CVNP at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the volunteer email at email@example.com.
The project also includes invasive plant control and sowing native wildflower and grass seeds to benefit wildlife, stabilize soils and reduce runoff, according to the grant proposal.
The second grant is from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources H2Ohio wetland restoration program. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine launched the H2Ohio program as a “comprehensive water quality initiative that is working to strategically address serious water issues that have been building in Ohio for decades.”
Funds from this grant will support stream and wetland restoration, which will include clearing vegetation to grade the site for wetland design, locating and disabling drain tiles in strategic locations, stream bank stabilization and replacing failed culverts. The Nature Conservancy will hire a contractor to perform this construction work.
Gilmore said the benefits of the project are closing the tree canopy gap in the forest and creating a habitat for wildlife. Additionally, the changes will improve water quality by reducing erosion, which adds sediment to the water, along Sagamore Run and the Cuyahoga River.
Township Attorney Jeff Snell said Sagamore is also working with the Cleveland Metroparks and Summit Metro Parks to create a trail through the property that connects the Bike and Hike and Towpath trails.
The project is slated for completion in fall 2024. No traffic disruptions are anticipated, and the contractor will access the site from Sagamore Road. Construction will not begin on the streams and wetlands portion of the project until next year. ∞