Chagrin Valley Times
This is the third and final year to use a federal grant to protect Ohio’s watersheds, according to local conservation officials. Environmental organizations are working to conserve and protect properties in the Chagrin Valley, including the Weintraub property in Orange Village and the Modroo property in Russell Township.
In 2017, the Chagrin River Watershed Partners, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and the West Creek Conservancy received $200,000 total from the Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant, which is supported through the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The organizations also contributed a total of $200,000 in matching funds, and the grant expires on June 30.
Deputy Director of Chagrin River Watershed Partners Kim Brewster said that when pursuing grant opportunities, it is helpful to partner with other local organizations. The watershed partners applied on behalf of the land conservancy and the West Creek Conservancy, which is located in Parma.
“It’s been a really neat opportunity to have a variety of watershed groups partnering with land trusts to protect Lake Erie,” Ms. Brewster said on Feb. 7.
The watershed partners currently are working on a project at the Weintraub property in Orange Village. The Weintraub property consists of 80 acres of undeveloped land south of Harvard Road between Orange Place Drive and Brainard Road. The property has been on the market for about 20 years, but Orange Mayor Kathy Mulcahy recently proposed an idea to develop 24 acres and preserve the rest. Ms. Brewster said that the goal is to permanently protect the remaining 56 acres and open it up for public access.
“This is a great opportunity because there’s not a lot of undisturbed green space left in Orange Village,” she said. “This is the largest remaining section of green space in the village.”
In a 2014 survey, Orange Village residents noted that they would like more green space, so Ms. Brewster said that this project fits well with the community’s needs. She also said that preserving the Weintraub property will protect a high quality habitat, which she said is rare in Cuyahoga County. The land is mostly made up of a forest and wetlands.
In addition, Ms. Brewster explained that the property borders the Chagrin River watershed and the Tinker’s Creek watershed. Wetlands soak up stormwater and release it slowly rather than sending it downstream to impervious surfaces, such as paved roads. She said that some residents in Orange struggle with drainage and stormwater management issues, so protecting the wetlands is beneficial to the residents.
The main ways to protect the land are through a conservation easement or a deed restriction, Ms. Brewster said. The watershed partners and the village collaborated to apply for a Clean Ohio grant, which they did not receive. Officials plan to apply again next year.
Brett Rodstrom, vice president of eastern field operations at the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, explained that the federal grant was split between the three organizations, and each chose individual projects and goals to work toward. He said that the grant helped the conservancy complete 10 projects to protect 265 acres within the Chagrin River watershed. The conservancy has leveraged $17.6 million in public funding and $6.5 million in private funding.
“We wanted to leverage this to get as much of the operating dollars back into the local communities as possible,” he said on Feb. 7.
A notable local project that Mr. Rodstrom mentioned was the Modroo property acquisition. The last phase of this project was completed in 2019. This 54-acre property is a public park that is managed by the Geauga Park District but owned by the Russell Township Park District 1545. The park includes a meadow, stream, forest and wetlands.
The conservancy also protected Gray Horse Farm in Munson by purchasing a conservation easement for the 70-acre property.
“The federal funds supported our operating revenue to facilitate these deals,” he said. “This grant helped with our staffing hours to complete these projects.”
Mr. Rodstrom explained that each organization played a different role when using the grant. The land conservancy focused on land acquisition and land protection, especially in rural areas. Its goal is to preserve 10,000 acres of land, 1,000 of which are wetlands, and preserve 25 miles of streams.
Overall, Mr. Rodstrom said that by collaborating with other organizations and communities, more than 75 percent of the main stem of the Chagrin River between Chagrin Falls and Eastlake is protected on one side or the other, either as park space or under conservation easements.
Protect Geauga Parks endorses and supports Matt Rambo for Geauga County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge in the March 17 Republican Primary election.
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