History

History of West Creek Conservancy

(formerly West Creek Preservation Committee)

In the mid 1990’s, the last remaining large undeveloped area in Parma, a 300-acre natural area near the headwaters of West Creek, was slated to become another shopping center and the City of Parma’s second golf course. Because West Creek flows through densely populated and developed suburbs of Cleveland, it had suffered severe degradation of both water quality and natural beauty over the years. Yet even under constant threat of development, significant natural areas had endured as a natural refuge from the urban hustle and bustle.

clevelandskylineA number of Parma area residents and other interested citizens recognized the value of preserving this greenspace in the inner ring of Cleveland’s suburbs. They started meeting regularly at a local library in 1997 to discuss options for saving the land along West Creek.  Calling themselves the West Creek Preservation Committee (WCPC), these initial volunteers reacted quickly to that threat of development, proposing an alternative that would not only preserve this special area, but also make it available for public enjoyment.

WCPC created the vision of the West Creek Preserve and Greenway, and then proceeded to make that vision a reality.  WCPC alerted the community to the public potential of this natural area, built widespread community support through an intensive public information campaign, convinced the public and elected officials of the wisdom of preserving this land and the creek that runs through it, and, in the absence of leadership from others, led the effort to permanently preserve this natural treasure.

After voters overwhelmingly supported a WCPC led initiative petition conserving an initial 160 acres of publicly owned land, WCPC took the lead in negotiating with landowners, acquiring grants, raising necessary funds, and purchasing key conservation parcels and/or easements to link and expand the Preserve and Greenway. WCPC’s efforts resulted in the establishment of the West Creek Preserve (now the Cleveland Metroparks West Creek Reservation).

Working with local communities and allied organizations, WCPC continued to focus on the West Creek Greenway, a recreational trail and conservation corridor that includes the nine mile length of West Creek and connects the Reservation to residential neighborhoods, local parks and regional trail networks. As part of this work, WCPC also completed projects in water quality improvement, storm water abatement, wetland and riparian corridor restoration, environmental education, historic preservation, and natural resource stewardship and protection.

firstWCtrailbridgeFor example, WCPC has restored two acres of wetlands, and managed the creation of three miles of recreational trail. In the summer of 2008, WCPC led a group of partners including the City of Independence and the Trust for Public Land in purchasing 10 acres of flood prone commercial property to begin the reclamation of the confluence of West Creek and the Cuyahoga River. This abandoned industrial site will become a natural floodplain and public park, linking local and regional trails.

By the mid 2000’s, WCPC was recognized for its experience with successful conservation and restoration initiatives and was often approached about assisting with projects beyond the West Creek watershed.  After completing projects in neighboring watersheds as well as the City of Cleveland, WCPC completed a strategic plan in 2009 that recognized the need for and expanded WCPC’s role as an urban land conservancy serving Greater Cleveland.  Now known as the West Creek Conservancy, the organization provides land conservancy services to individuals, partner organizations, and communities throughout Greater Cleveland.

West Creek Conservancy completed its first land purchase and became a landowner in 2001. As an urban land trust, West Creek Conservancy has protected over 150 parcels covering more than 700 acres of open space.  Over its first ten years, the organization leveraged over $25,000,000 in funding for conservation, restoration, and trail projects.

Timeline:

1997

  • Dave Vasarhelyi gathers local volunteers and forms West Creek Preservation Committee (WCPC), a grassroots organization devoted to protecting over 300 acres of natural area along West Creek in Parma

1998

  • WCPC develops and publicly presents the vision for the West Creek Preserve and Greenway
  • WCPC receives its first project grant for educational outreach (from Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network)
  • News reports indicate multiple proposals to build a combined shopping complex and golf course on city and privately-owned land along West Creek, which would destroy Parma’s largest remaining green space
  • Following a successful WCPC initiative petition in which over 6,000 voter signatures are gathered in 10 days, Parma voters reject by 72% a proposed golf course and choose to protect natural habitat on 162 acres of city-owned land and dedicate it as West Creek Preserve
  • WCPC is awarded its first foundation grant for educational outreach (from Gund Foundation)

1999

  • WCPC assists the newly-formed Parma Park Advisory Committee; WCPC begins to facilitate and later leads land acquisition efforts to expand West Creek Preserve and begin creation of the West Creek Greenway
  • WCPC succeeds in having the West Creek area incorporated into the Ohio & Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor, signifying its regional historical significance

2000

  • WCPC incorporates as an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization
  • West Creek Preserve is officially dedicated as Parma’s first park for conservation
  • Parma voters pass a $3 million bond levy by 62% to purchase 72 acres of prime woodlands and wetlands from Gannett Broadcasting to enlarge West Creek Preserve; WCPC facilitates the acquisition

2001

  • Cuyahoga County Planning Commission completes the “West Creek Valley Management Plan” identifying strategies for land use, water quality, and recreational trail opportunities in the West Creek watershed
  • Using a combination of grant funds, WCPC purchases its first conservation property, a 1.5-acre site along West Creek at Pleasant Valley Road in Parma

2002

  • WCPC leads successful efforts to protect 40 additional acres of West Creek Valley adjacent to West Creek Preserve
  • WCPC receives a $730,000 grant in the 1st round of Clean Ohio conservation funding to acquire over 60 acres for the West Creek Greenway; WCPC will be awarded Clean Ohio funds in every subsequent round
  • WCPC receives an Ohio EPA grant to hire a watershed coordinator
  • Under the direction of Professor Terry Greathouse of Cuyahoga Community College, WCPC, CCC, the City of Parma, and hundreds of volunteers collaborate to create 2 acres of wetlands in West Creek Preserve

2003

  • WCPC opens its first office, at Rockside Plaza in Parma, and hires its first staff member
  • WCPC partners with Trust for Public Land and the City of Parma to save the historic Henninger House from demolition and acquire it for a future trailhead along the West Creek Greenway; the canal-era property includes the oldest structure in Parma
  • WCPC partners with the Village of Brooklyn Heights to protect the threatened 27-acre Eagle Glen parcel along West Creek, doubling the size of Brooklyn Heights Park
  • WCPC and the City of Parma complete and open the first mile of trail in West Creek Preserve; it includes a scenic steel bridge spanning West Creek

2004

  • WCPC and the City of Parma complete acquisition of 72-acre Gannett property, which is added to West Creek Preserve
  • Cleveland Metroparks announces discussions regarding a lease of West Creek Preserve for a new reservation; public input workshops are held

2005

  • WCPC partners with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District for stream habitat restoration projects along West Creek

2006

  • WCPC, the City of Parma, and Cleveland Metroparks enter into a lease agreement in which Metroparks will manage West Creek Preserve as its 16th reservation; WCPC will lead efforts to expand and connect new reservation to the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail
  • WCPC, Cleveland Metroparks, and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District partner to lead watershed stewardship programs out of a planned Watershed Leadership Center at West Creek Reservation
  • Cuyahoga Valley Chamber of Commerce bestows 2006 Organization of the Year award on WCPC for green space preservation, water resource restoration, and creation of a recreational trail network

2007

  • West Creek Greenway trail planning is completed and ready for implementation to connect with the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail
  • WCPC aids the City of Seven Hills in receiving a Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency grant for a 1-mile trail segment of the West Creek Greenway east of Broadview Road; it opens by year end
  • WCPC, Trust for Public Land, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, and the City of Independence purchase a closed big box store and 10-acre West Creek confluence site to restore the streambed, floodplain, and wetlands, and create a new riverfront park along the Cuyahoga River
  • Parma City Council and Ohio Representative Timothy DeGeeter honor WCPC founder Dave Vasarhelyi and chair Dave Lincheck in celebration of the organization’s achievements on its 10th anniversary

2008

  • WCPC acquires Valley Tavern site in Independence, across from confluence site, to improve wildlife habitat and help manage stormwater along West Creek
  • WCPC completes its first project within the City of Cleveland, acquiring a 22-acre conservation easement on prime riparian corridor, wooded ravine, and restored open space for Treadway Creek Greenway & Trail, the first neighborhood trail west of the Cuyahoga River to connect with the Towpath Trail

2009

  • The West Creek Watershed Action Plan is completed and receives full endorsement by Ohio EPA
  • WCPC acquires a 55-acre conservation easement in the upper Big Creek watershed to form Busch/Snake Hill Conservation Area for future restoration and low-impact recreation
  • WCPC completes and adopts a strategic plan which reinforces its role as an urban land conservancy, formally expands its service area to all of Greater Cleveland, and outlines a plan to grow the organization’s capacity and sustainability
  • WCPC accepts donation of 5-acre Novy property in Brooklyn Heights containing a West Creek tributary on the south side of I-480; it becomes the largest stream restoration initiative on lower West Creek, totaling nearly ½ mile and over $2 million
  • Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District awards WCPC a $30,000 grant in their first round of Watershed Operating Support Grants, which recognizes the importance of local watershed organizations

2010

  • Cosponsors WCPC and Friends of Big Creek lead the first Greater Cleveland Trails Conference in Middleburg Heights
  • Gund Foundation awards WCPC $100,000/year for three years for operation of urban land conservancy
  • Cuyahoga County Natural Resources Advisory Council awards WCPC Round 6 Clean Ohio Conservation Funds totaling $535,000 to protect 6 parcels in Seven Hills and Parma and 2300 feet of stream
  • WCPC receives a $103,000 Clean Ohio Trails Fund grant and a $130,000 Recreational Trails grant for land acquisition along a trail segment connecting Henninger House to Brooklyn Heights Park
  • WCPC accepts donation of 3-acre Penko property in North Royalton containing Big Creek headwaters; proceeds of house sale fund the purchase of additional 3 acres in Brooklyn, critical to proposed Big Creek Connector Trail
  • WCPC protects its first parcel of land within the Euclid Creek watershed in partnership with the City of Cleveland and Friends of Euclid Creek
  • WCPC hires its first executive director

2011

  • WCPC revises its mission statement to better reflect its core principles and countywide service area
  • Cleveland Metroparks announces groundbreaking for $12 million in improvements to West Creek Reservation with partners Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, the City of Parma, and WCPC
  • WCPC and Cleveland Metroparks begin management of GLRI grant for West Creek Ecosystem Restoration Project under West Creek Neighborhood Stewardship Program
  • WCPC partners with OSU Extension and City of Cleveland to reclaim 6 acres of vacant urban land and facilitate Kinsman Farm Project, serving as ongoing landholder and licensor of plots to urban farmers

2012

  • WCPC has conserved or assisted others in the conservation of over 700 acres, owns 66 conservation parcels, and holds 20 conservation easements
  • WCPC hires first bookkeeper/office manager
  • Along with many partners, WCPC and Friends of Big Creek organize the Second Biennial Greater Cleveland Trails & Greenways Conference in Independence
  • WCPC partners with the City of Parma and Cleveland Metroparks to facilitate acquisition of Dentzler Trail land for neighborhood trail connection
  • WCPC adopts West Creek Conservancy (WCC) name to better reflect its primary services
  • WCPC continues to evolve as a land conservancy and watershed protection organization, coordinating stream and wetland restoration projects, conserving additional natural areas, and acquiring land needed for the West Creek Greenway
  • WCPC conservation projects beyond the West Creek watershed grow as WCPC receives an increasing number of inquiries about working in the larger Greater Cleveland community
  • WCC holds its first annual Tails for Trails Dog Walk-a-Thon fundraiser at Seven Hills Recreational Trail
  • WCC is named a Partner-of-the-Year by Cleveland Crops; WCC helped secure 20 acres for their farming operations

2013

  • WCC holds its first large-scale fundraising event, Blues for Greens; a capacity crowd of over 400 attends at Sava Event Center in Broadview Heights
  • Through partnership with Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, the City of Parma, and Parma Area Historical Society, WCC facilitates creation of Greater Cleveland’s largest urban farm, Cleveland Crops urban farm at Parma’s Stearns Homestead
  • WCC partners with Friends of Euclid Creek and Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District to create the 9-acre Redstone Run Highland Reserve in Richmond Heights
  • WCC holds its 2nd Annual Tails for Trails Dog Walk-a-Thon at West Creek Reservation
  • WCC assists Cleveland Metroparks in preserving nearly 50 acres in the East Branch watershed of Rocky River, a recognized Blue Heron Rookery with abundant high-quality streams and wetlands
  • Capital improvements by Cleveland Metroparks to the 325-acre West Creek Reservation are completed; West Creek Reservation and Watershed Stewardship Center celebrate their grand opening; WCC opens an office at the new center
  • Gateway to West Creek: Protecting the Confluence, a 10-acre restoration project in Independence, breaks ground to provide emergency floodplain, storm water storage, and natural parkland at West Creek’s confluence with the Cuyahoga River
  • WCC secures an additional 10 acres from Gannett Broadcasting for future incorporation into West Creek Reservation
  • In partnership with Cleveland Metroparks, WCC completes the 2nd and 3rd phases of a model stormwater retrofit program for residential areas; impact on water quality is notable
  • WCC sponsors an Ohio Historical Society marker for Parma’s Henninger Homestead; a well-attended dedication event also features installation of a commemorative brick plaza
  • WCC acquires 7 acres of woodlands and headwater streams for future Dentzler Trail connection between West Creek Reservation and Stearns Homestead in Big Creek Watershed; Cleveland Metroparks completes three bridges crossing West Creek to reach Dentzler Road
  • WCC partners with Friends of Euclid Creek and Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District to protect 19 acres containing rare urban wetlands adjoining Highland Heights Park

2014

  • WCC holds its 2nd Blues for Greens conservation gala at St. Michael’s Woodside in Broadview Heights; a capacity crowd of over 400 again attends
  • Along with many partners, WCC and Friends of Big Creek organize the Third Biennial Greater Cleveland Trails & Greenways Conference in Mayfield Village
  • WCC conserves a 22-acre property in Brooklyn Heights having ½ mile of Cuyahoga River shoreline
  • WCC transfers to Cleveland Metroparks a parcel purchased in 2012, near Scranton Road in Cleveland, critical to forming the Lake Link Trail, which will join Cleveland’s lakefront to the Towpath Trail

2015

  • Partnering with communities to develop the Hemlock Creek Trail, WCC launches a funding campaign to complete this key link between West Creek Reservation and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, extending the West Creek Greenway to the Towpath Trail; WCC leverages over $510,000 toward the project
  • WCC partners with the City of North Royalton, Rocky River Watershed Council, and Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District to complete a headwater restoration project in Healey Creek, part of the Rocky River watershed
  • WCC hires its first Stewardship and Outreach Manager, which significantly increases plantings, clean-ups, invasive species removal days, community event staffing, newsletter production, and hikes/tours
  • WCC leverages over $25,000 to complete restoration of Henninger House windows and doors
  • For a cost of over $550,000, WCC acquires properties totaling over 30 acres in the upper reaches of the West Creek Valley that enable extension of West Creek Reservation to key destinations: Broadview and Pleasant Valley Roads, and Normandy High School

2016

  • WCC, Big Creek Connects, and other partners organize the Fourth Biennial Greater Cleveland Trails & Greenways Conference in Brecksville
  • Created the 16th Cleveland Metroparks Reservation in the heart of the Emerald Necklace, which will be coupled with over 20 miles of trail connecting to the Towpath Trail and Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  • Doubled the size of Brooklyn Heights Park
  • Restored over 5 miles of stream throughout Greater Cleveland
  • Assisted in the conservation of over 1100 acres in our community
  • Reclaimed un-sustainably developed land in a dozen watersheds of the mighty Cuyahoga
  • Expanded city parks across the region, including the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, one of our Nation’s most visited National Parks

 

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