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West Creek Watershed Stewardship Center shows where the water goes

David Beach  |  12/16/13 @ 2:00pm  |  Posted in Clean water

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.

Watershed Stewardship Center at West Creek<br />The new visitor center at Cleveland Metroparks West Creek Reservation is a place for everyone to learn about stormwater issues and the care of water resources.Green roof<br />The first place to intercept rain water is on the roof, with a green roof planted with sedums and globe onions. A green roof also shades the building in the summer.Water storage<br />Some of the rain water from the roof is collected in this 2,200-gallon cistern and then used for watering the green roof and other landscaping during dry periods.Wetland pools<br />Stormwater from the front of the center is directed to a restored wetland, which filters pollutants and settles out sediment. Rain chains<br />Some of the West Creek Center's downspouts are replaced by rain chains, which dissipate the erosive energy of falling water, as well as make water more visible.Bioswale step pools<br />Rain water from the site drains into a long swale with weirs positioned as dams to make a series of temporary pools. This gives more of the runoff time to soak into the ground. Pervious pavers<br />Pervious pavers are made so spaces remain when they fit together, thus allowing water to infiltrate. A layer of porous sand or gravel under the pavers provides room for water storage. Pervious patio<br />The rear patio features pervious paving, a rain garden, and decorative runnel that conveys rain from a downspout to make the flow of water visible.Grass swale<br />A vegetated swale collects runoff from the road and trail and allows it to infiltrate slowly into the ground. The storm sewer catch basin is raised so it only accepts water when necessary during very heavy rains. Road collector<br />This traffic circle by the parking lot slopes to a rain garden. The curb is cut to allow water to flow in. The storm drain in the center is raised so it only works as an overflow. Bioswale for parking lot<br />Stormwater runoff from parking lots can be quite polluted. The main lot at the West Creek Center is sloped to drain into this bioswale, which filters the water and lets it soak into the ground. Inside a healthy stream<br />Among the exhibits inside the West Creek Center are aquariums showing fish and other wildlife that can be found in streams when stormwater runoff is reduced. Watershed view<br />This interactive exhibit in the West Creek Center allows you to project different land use and water features onto a three-dimensional map of the watershed.

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.

More on local activism for clean water.

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Gone Green
8 years ago

BTW, at least some of the rain chains connect to sewer grates. But my point is that the water coming out of the downspouts doesn't stay connected to the chain until it reaches the ground; instead, it splatters all over the place.

Gone Green
8 years ago

Thanks for the responses. I look forward to checking it out and looking up more info regarding the Audubon designation!

David Beach
8 years ago

Some responses to the good questions in the previous comment:

1) Rain chains are decorative (and educational) alternatives to downspouts that help to make water more visible. But they also help to slow falling water and reduce the potential for erosion. At West Creek they are installed over a rain garden or some other on-site collection feature so they are part of a system that keeps water out of the storm drains. As to the ones at the new Woodhill Rapid Station, I will have to check and see how they are installed. (Anyone know?)

2) It's true that golf courses often use lots of pesticides and fertilizers, making them sources of polluted runoff. While I am still trying to find out more information, I know the Metroparks manages its courses to reduce such problems. The Metroparks Washington Golf Course, for example, has been designated as an Audubon International Certified Gold Signature Sanctuary through the Audubon International Signature Program "recognizing the high quality of environmental stewardship reflected in the golf course design and maintenance." It's only the ninth course in the country to achieve this designation.

3) The green building interpretation at West Creek focuses on the systems for managing stormwater, not on larger issues of building new vs. rehabbing existing buildings.

Gone Green
8 years ago

Looks like an interesting place. A couple of comments and observations:

(1) Do those rain chains actually work? The ones at RTA's Woodhill Rapid Station certainly don't.

(2) What are the Metroparks' golf courses doing to improve water quality? Is it enough?

(3) Does the green building demonstration indicate that the greenest house is the one that isn't built?

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