Former Acacia Country Club in Lyndhurst became a Cleveland Metropark Reservation in 2012. The Metroparks is working to restore the 155-acre property at the headwaters of the Euclid Creek Watershed. Restoration of such a large property will have a dramatic impact on the health of the watershed downstream. By reforesting portions of the property, daylighting sections of the creek that are underground in pipes, and recreating wetlands we will see improvements in water quality and reductions in the volume of storm water running into the Main Branch of Euclid Creek over time.
The property transfer from the Conservation Fund requires that Acacia be restored to a primarily natural state similar to Euclid Creek and Chagrin Reservations. City Council members, residents, consultants, educators, and community groups provided input on how the restoration could look. Suggestions included storm water management techniques utilizing the existing sand traps, wetlands creation, restoring floodplains and meadows, outdoor education opportunities; the ideas were abundant. Cleveland Metroparks staff appreciated the input provided that will inform the restoration planning efforts moving forward.
NPR recently did a story on Acacia. You can read about it and watch the video at this link.
To date, here’s what this landscape experiment has included:
5,682 - # of native trees & shrubs installed
4,274 - # of native herbaceous plugs planted
2,535 - linear feet of headwater swale created
1,775 - linear feet of stream channel restored
1,078 - # of live willow & dogwood stakes installed
155 - # of acres searched & treated for invasive plants (the whole park!)
40 - # of vegetation & photo monitoring plots visited annually
3 - # of tree enclosures / deer exclosures
Over 80 people attended the Cleveland Metroparks Acacia Reservation Restoration Planning meeting on March 5 at the Lyndhurst Community Center. The property transfer from the Conservation Fund requires that Acacia be restored to a primarily natural state similar to Euclid Creek and Chagrin Reservations. City Council members, residents, consultants, educators, and community groups provided input on how the restoration could look. Suggestions included storm water management techniques utilizing the existing sand traps, wetlands creation, restoring floodplains and meadows, outdoor education opportunities; the ideas were abundant. Cleveland Metroparks staff appreciated the input provided that will inform the restoration planning efforts moving forward.
Cleveland Metroparks (CM) applied for a $1.8 million grant to restore a section of Euclid Creek at Acacia Reservation in Lyndhurst. The project ranked 2nd of 14 statewide restoration proposals, and only the top 3 fell within funding range. CM is awaiting final approval of the project from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency through their Water Resource Restoration Sponsorship Program.
Funding will restore 1,300 linear feet of Euclid Creek and will connect the stream to nearly 3.5 acres of floodplain and 14 acres of wetland swales within the 155 acre park. This restoration project was a recommendation from an in depth Acacia Reservation Ecological Restoration Master Plan conducted by Biohabitats, Inc. on behalf of CM.
Funding for Design/Engineering Work for Acacia Pond
The Park District was awarded a $16,500 Cuyahoga AOC Habitat Restoration grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Park and City of Lyndhurst plan to restore Euclid Creek at Acacia’s Northwest Pond. A major recommendation in the Euclid Creek Watershed Action Plan is to evaluate all dams in the watershed for removal, as dams have an adverse effect on the health of the watershed. This dam, located in the northwest corner of Acacia Reservation along Richmond Road, was constructed to serve as golf course irrigation in the 1960’s by the City of Lyndhurst when Richmond Road was under construction. Next steps are for project partners to decommission the dam, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources Class III dam, to reduce the impounded water level and create vegetated wetland swales. Providing wetland habitat will greatly benefit terrestrial and aquatic wildlife in and around the park, and additional storm water infiltration and storage capacity will greatly benefit the downstream community by reducing runoff volume in storm events.
Projects Funded for Restoration — by Kristen Trolio, Grants & Outreach Coordinator at Cleveland Metroparks
Several other exciting projects are underway at Cleveland Metroparks Acacia Reservation. The Park District has officially been awarded just over $2M in funds under two Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) programs: Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program (WRRSP) and Section 319(h). Both grants will fund restoration of the main stem of Euclid Creek and associated floodplain, and wetland areas in the southern portion of Acacia. The design and engineering plans will be completed this year and construction will begin in 2016.
Cleveland Metroparks has also been awarded funds from the Charles L. Pack Trust to complete a reforestation and research project at the eastern edge of the Reservation on the site of the former driving range. Park District staff will plant trees and study the effects of different soil treatments on the vitality and reproductive health of the trees. The results will be beneficial not only to the restoration at Acacia Reservation, but to other urban restoration projects as well.
Partnering with Beachwood High School - by Lisa Bugenske, Science Teacher
Beachwood’s AP Environmental science class is getting some real-world experience and partnering with Cleveland Metroparks. Because it is designed to be a course in environmental science rather than environmental studies, the AP Environmental Science course must include a strong laboratory and field investigation component. In order to give students an exemplary experience, the Metroparks are working with us at Acacia Reservation bordering the City of Beachwood. This site makes sense for us to study, as part of the Euclid Creek watershed is in Beachwood and because environmental restoration efforts are underway to return it from a golf course to a more natural state. Students will be able to see real restoration efforts taking place at a location near to their homes.
As of November, students have taken two of five field trips to the site. They are using monitoring equipment borrowed from Tri-C to evaluate the water quality of tributaries to Euclid Creek which eventually drains to Lake Erie. Monitoring can be conducted for many purposes including 1) characterize waters and identify changes or trends in water quality over time; 2) identify specific existing or emerging water quality problems; 3) gather information to design specific pollution prevention or remediation programs. For now, students are collecting data that they will later use to evaluate the quality of the stream. Metroparks’ staff is interested particularly in the conductivity levels of the site and the impacts from parking lots and road salt. Students will also do a macroinvertebrate study as a way to assess water quality, by understanding what key species of stream “critters” find a home in Acacia. Our last visit showed that the stream at the headwaters of the reservation is in fair condition, not surprising since this site is surrounding by heavy traffic, housing and large commercial sites.
In addition to these monitoring activities, each visit includes applying concepts they are learning about in class. For example, on our last trip we looked for examples of human disturbance and explained the consequences to the site. Our next field trip will look at understanding soils and observing and predicting the succession process that will be taking place naturally as the golf course is no longer maintained. As the Metroparks ramps up its restoration efforts over the next year, students hope to be involved in rebuilding riparian borders along the creek, monitoring restoration efforts, and looking for ways to engage the public educationally. Students will also gain an appreciation and a responsibility for how they can both impact and maintain the environment in their region.
Northeast Pond Restoration Plans Complete - In 2015 Cleveland Metroparks received a grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through USEPA's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to explore ways to improve water quality associated with the northeast pond at Acacia Reservation Metroparks within the Euclid Creek Watershed.
Cleveland Metroparks hired Sustainable Streams to provide the designs, which were presented to neighbors of Acacia at a community meeting on February 4, who also learned about basic pond management recommendations. The concept design proposes feathering out bank slopes to add wetland fringes to the pond as well as daylighting the stream at the outlet of the pond. The proposed modifications will provide water quality benefits by allowing water to seep through riffle structures and also soak into the ground rather than simply flowing through a storm sewer. The project will also improve hydrology by prolonging base flows and capturing peak storm events.
Tree study - Cleveland Metroparks is partnering with Case Western Reserve University to study soil and its impacts on the establishment of tree seedlings supporting restoration. The study also includes an experimental design that will allow for some analysis of how climate change may effect the vigor of plant stock from nurseries in other areas of the country. Most recent progress includes the installation of a 2 acre fence in the southeast corner of Acacia Reservation. The project is funded by the Charles Pack Trust.
Euclid Creek restoration, wetland establishment and stream daylighting - Biohabitats and Meadville Land Service were selected as the design-build team for this series of restoration projects at Acacia (see location map above, projects circled in red and blue are a part of this project). Ecological assessments and survey are complete and the team is fully engaged in design with an eye towards commencing project installation by fall 2016. The southwest corner of Acacia Reservation will likely be closed during project construction. The primary project funder is OEPA's Water Resources Restoration Sponsor Program with Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District as the local sponsor. Additional funding is provided by USFWS, OEPA Section 319 and The Conservation Fund.
Student engagement at Acacia - After participating in 2015's Day in the Life of Euclid Creek, Lisa Bugenske could not wait to get her Beachwood High School students involved in the transformation taking place at the newly acquired park. Lisa coordinated with Tri-C professor Lou Rifici on water quality monitoring protocol and borrowed equipment occasionally. Her class of A.P. Environmental Science students have documented Euclid Creek through water quality and photo documentation measurements every other month throughout the school year, including the frigid month of January! We look forward to seeing their compilation of data from the year.
What's all that water? - In 2015 Natural Resource (NR) Manager, Erik Shaffer, and other NR staff worked on reversing a couple of the most environmentally negative golf course legacies - unnatural drainage and greens. Golf courses typically have an extensive system of underground pipes to irrigate greens and tees, while then quickly shedding water off the landscape. Utilizing a mini-excavator, Erik broke these lines and then ripped, tilled and plowed the greens associated with these new wet areas with the intention to create wet meadows. These areas were subsequently seeded in March. We look forward to seeing a diversity of native grasses, sedges and perennials that attract and benefit an array of pollinators, while establishing deep root systems that will soak up more water than the previous fescue cover.
Acacia Restoration Started in Fall - by Jenn Grieser, Cleveland Metroparks
As Acacia Reservation continues its journey to forest and meadow, changes will affect access to some areas. For 91 years, golf course managers used many ways to drain water quickly off the property. One of the goals of the restoration is to allow stormwater to linger as long as possible, which slows flooding further downstream. This involves breaking up the underground drainage systems and sculpting the land in ways that allow stormwater to pool and soak in.
Beginning this fall you will witness large equipment moving soil, fences protecting sensitive areas, tree felling and new trail alignments emerging over time. Some will be temporary while others will be permanent. All will provide exceptional views to observe the exciting changes as we work with nature to reclaim this land.
Winter 2016 - by Jenn Grieser, Cleveland Metroparks
When working on a restoration project, I love pretty project renderings provided by consultants vying for the design contract. Similarly lush, green photographs, which shed the best light on projects after construction, encourage us to do more. What about all of the details – the knitty gritty – between renderings & post-construction pics?
Here’s a glimpse of those details for the Euclid Creek restoration at Acacia Reservation, listing a week’s worth of work by contractor, Meadville Land Services (MLS). November 9th– 15thMLS stripped topsoil, excavated excess material, built a cobble riffle, excavated a pool, graded a spoil pile, covered ground with wood chips, installed cobble field drain outlets, added topsoil, seed and mulch to floodplain & slope, placed habitat structures (e.g. snags & large woody debris), installed coir matting, hauled out asphalt, installed cobble in buried sill, removed asphalt path and gathered irrigation pipes.
These activities may not compel a day of plein air painting, but they are the foundation to a functioning floodplain and stream ecosystem. We look forward to unveiling a beautiful canvas for everyone’s appreciation in 2017!
An update from behind the orange curtain - by Jenn Grieser, Cleveland Metroparks
Contractors have continued to work tirelessly at Acacia Reservation throughout the winter in order to unveil a lush, restored landscape upon completion of stream restoration efforts. Meadville Land Service under the guidance of Cleveland Metroparks and Biohabitats have largely completed the earth moving work on the Euclid Creek mainstem and have moved onto ripping up drain tile and installing stormwater swales. Plant installation will begin the week of April 24th, and if not completed in the spring, crews may need to return in the fall to finish up. We look forward to providing you with a “backstage” tour during Day in the Life of Euclid Creek on 7/15.
What lies beneath
During his initial glimpse and examination of the soil, Cleveland Metroparks wetland ecologist, John Reinier, envisioned the forested wetland that Acacia Reservation may one day become. He explained that if we removed the tile drainage installed by the golf course to remove water off the landscape, that the clay-heavy soils would retain water on the landscape. Working with the contour and slope of swale-type areas that led to degraded, incised headwaters, Biohabitats designed a series of five stormwater swales or what may end up looking more like small, ephemeral step-pool streams. Meadville removed tile, dug small pools and installed seepage berms with cobble riffles and the system filled with water almost immediately. Once vegetated the step-pools will become nearly invisible save for the water-loving plants surrounding them. We look forward to observing the fauna that inhabit Acacia after the increase of native flora.
Restoration tidbit: Hawks – red-tailed & sharp-shinned – have been enjoying the earth work at Acacia. As the heavy equipment churns up the soil or tamps down soil, mice and voles scurry out of their winter hiding spaces. The hawks position themselves close to these machines in order to pick off an easy meal. Fast food at your service! They have become so accustomed to the workers that they land a mere 10 ft away and swoop within feet of the equipment to grab a snack. The contractors are expecting the day when they may find a hawk on their shoulder!
Two New Project Areas Underway at Acacia
While the Euclid Creek mainstem and associated swales are nearing completion two new project areas went under construction this summer and will be completed after the fall planting season.
SW tributary: In the southwest corner of Acacia, a tributary flows from under Cedar Rd northwest about 1,100 ft. to Richmond Rd. A portion of this stream was covered by an approximately 150’ culvert and tons of soil just to provide golf course access to holes 11 and 12. Over the last couple of weeks, the project team has removed the soil and culvert and constructed boulder and cobble riffles to improve the function of this tributary to Euclid Creek.
This project is financed in part through grants from The Conservation Fund, United States Fish and Wildlife Service as well as United States and Ohio Environmental Protection Agencies, under provisions of Section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act.
NE Pond: Opposite the SW tributary, in the northeast corner of Acacia, contractors have begun enhancements to the pond that is shared with residents of Acacia Estates. As a stormwater control measure for the development, the design team modeled run-off and storm elevations to determine optimal sizing and contours. The project will naturalize the western pond slope, provide wetland habitat and daylight the pond outflow over a rocky stream bed rather than sending it underground via pipe. Allowing the outflow to course through rock riffles will filter pollutants and provide greater storm volume capture.
Look at that Rack! Perhaps you have driven by Acacia Reservation on Cedar Rd. or visited the park and noticed all the debris caught in the cages currently protecting newly planted trees and shrubs from deer browse. Those “in the know” call that debris a Rack Line. After large storms, stream ecologists often visit creeks in search of great racks, which show how high the water rose. Late June delivered nearly 2.5” of rain within less than an hour, resulting in a 25-year storm event and delivering lots of debris to the now functioning floodplain of Euclid Creek.
At Acacia Reservation, the numerous new little ponds resulting from tile removal were not only visited by ducks this spring, but also quickly inhabited by thousands of tadpoles. During a July site visit, Cleveland Metroparks observed a mink hunting in one of these pools.
2018: - by Jenn Grieser, Cleveland Metroparks
December 2017 marked five full years that Cleveland Metroparks has managed Acacia Reservation as a public recreation amenity for surrounding communities. In fact, nearly a half million people have visited Acacia since the property transfer. With restoration as its deeded goal, park guests have been privy to observing changes in the landscape, including stream daylighting and restoration, reforestation, tile removal, prescribed burn, meadow creation, pond enhancement and invasive plant management. The Park District’s Outdoor Experiences staff have offered 164 programs to over 1,900 guests to help tell this restoration story and document this transformation.
Cleveland Metroparks did not accomplish this work alone, but rather in good company with funding from The Conservation Fund, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Charles Pack Trust, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. Volunteers from the Park District’s Watershed Volunteer Program as well as Friends of Euclid Creek, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio Economic Development Association, Hawken, Urban Squash Cleveland, Brownies, Beachwood High School, Healthcare Scribes, US Coast Guard, Boy Scouts, US Federal Reserve Bank, Holden Forests & Gardens, Under Armour, International Economic Development Council, Cub Scouts and University School all lent a hand on a variety of projects.
These efforts have not only engaged diverse groups of people, but also produced ecological results. After reconnecting Euclid Creek to its floodplain, the stream can now store stormwater rather than sending it gushing downstream. And fish are responding to their ultimate home makeover; Metroparks fisheries biologist measured a ten-fold increase in the number of fish and a marked increase in diversity. Our feathered friends also favor the landscape improvements. Monthly bird walks and active citizen scientists have documented 139 species of birds using Acacia. This summer Cleveland Metroparks will once again host expert biologists on a 24-hr bioblitz to further document wildlife response five years later. Stay tuned for the results…