AUGUST 11, 2021
BY ANN WISHART
There was something fishy going on at the Geauga Park District Board of Commissioners meeting Aug. 9 — brook trout fishy to be exact. The small speckled fish is listed as threatened and could bump up to endangered in Ohio, but it continues to swim in a cold water stream that empties into the Chagrin River at Bass Lake Park, said Paul Pira, park biologist, to commissioners during a 15-minute presentation.
Due largely to development, the once-common species had been decimated and the only remaining population was discovered in 1972 at Bass Lake by a professor at John Carroll University, Pira said.
With newly-acquired Veterans Legacy Park, another home for the brook trout may be established.
In the northeast corner of the park, another cold-water stream was found gushing out of the ground, making its way to a southbound stream of warm water, Pira said.
When the 53-degree stream was found at Veterans Legacy Park, it opened new horizons for Pira and the district.
“Could we do a brook trout stream here?” he asked. “These fish are indicators of real cold, crystal-clear, clean water. That’s why very few are left in Ohio now.”
He showed the board a plan to redirect the cold-water stream to run parallel with the warm-water stream and create a second habitat for the brook trout.
“Its population has greatly decreased due to land development and forest clearing,” he said.
Early settlers noted an abundance of the fish, which are about 8-9 inches long, but by 1838, the species was disappearing and in 1957, were considered extinct until survivors were found near Bass Lake.
Redirecting the cold stream as new habitat of about 1,700 feet would be involved.
“It’s ambitious, it’s definitely something different,” Pira said.
It would also be expensive. Last year, Geauga Park District applied for an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency grant of about $1.1 million for the project, but lost by a narrow margin, Pira said. The people funding the stream idea were hesitant and there is a lot of competition for the money, he said, adding he has applied for the next grant.
The project also includes reforesting about 9 acres of the 180-acre former golf course and creating some ponds. Having trees along the stream would help keep the water cold for the brook trout, he said.
“It takes a couple of years to get a park off the ground,” he said, adding restoration can take two to four years. Applying for the grant is part of the management and restoration plan.
The park, formerly Wicked Woods Golf course at 14085 Ravenna Road in Newbury Township, is already undergoing some changes since purchased in December 2018.