Park District Receives Top Environmental Award from Ohio EPA
Cleveland Metroparks today was joined by Ohio EPA Director Laurie A. Stevenson for a tour of the Park District’s conservation and sustainability efforts over the last decade, including marking a decade since Acacia Reservation was transformed from a private golf course into a public park. During the tour, Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian M. Zimmerman was presented with the Encouraging Environmental Excellence Platinum level award, the highest level of recognition by Ohio EPA for environmental stewardship and excellence. Cleveland Metroparks is the first park distcrt to receive the award.
Since Acacia Reservation was donated by The Conservation Fund to Cleveland Metroparks in 2012, the Park District has undertaken substantial efforts to transform the former golf course and restore the land to its natural state including the installation of over 10,000 native plants and trees, restoration of over 4,300 feet of stream, creation of over eight acres of wetland, establishment of native meadows, fish stocking, invasive species removal, stream clean-ups, and restoring Euclid Creek and its tributaries. Over $2 million of these efforts were funded by programs administered by Ohio EPA.
The restoration has resulted in a drastic return of native vegetation and wildlife. Expert biologists surveying the reservation have documented 465 species including 139 bird species. Recreational visitation to Acacia Reservation has increased every year since it was acquired and, in 2021, the park had more than 291,000 visitors – more than three times the popularity it had when it opened.
“This platinum level designation from the Ohio EPA truly underscores the work and progress of Cleveland Metroparks to be a leader in sustainability within the community,” said Brian M. Zimmerman, Cleveland Metroparks CEO. “We’re thankful for Ohio EPA’s support in helping make a positive impact on our region’s water, air and quality of life.”
Cleveland Metroparks also announced work to improve the water quality and fish passage in Johnson’s Creek, a headwater tributary to the East Branch Rocky River located in Hinckley Reservation. The project, funded in part from the Ohio EPA, is restoring the stream channel, stabilizing streambanks, reducing further erosion into the creek, as well as improving the creek’s natural flow by removing infrastructure that formerly impeded the passage of fish and macroinvertebrates.
“Cleveland Metroparks exemplifies what Ohio EPA is looking for in our Encouraging Environmental Excellence Platinum level, from their ongoing commitment to regional sustainability to continuing to conserve and restore water quality in the region to benefit all who live in northeast Ohio,” said Ohio EPA Director Laurie A. Stevenson. “We are happy to share in their celebration of conservation and environmental stewardship and look forward to future conservation and sustainability projects.”
Ohio EPA’s Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) program recognizes businesses and other organizations for completing environmentally beneficial activities and serves as an incentive for organizations to commit to ongoing environmental stewardship. To earn the platinum level award, a business or organization must expand their environmental and sustainability program beyond their facilities and demonstrate how their environmental stewardship efforts benefit the local community, region or larger geographic area. Cleveland Metroparks recognition was initially scheduled for 2020 but was rescheduled due to the pandemic.
Through the E3 program, Ohio EPA’s Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance helps businesses receive recognition for environmental stewardship and sustainability efforts with a goal of reducing their impact on the environment resulting in long-term economic benefits.
Over the last ten years, Cleveland Metroparks has added approximately 3,000 acres to its nearly 25,000 acres of protected parks, forests, streams and rivers. The structural value of all Cleveland Metroparks natural areas is estimated at $1.47 billion and estimated total carbon storage within the Park District’s forests is estimated at $185 million. According to a study by the Trust for Public Land, Cleveland Metroparks reservations provide regional stormwater infiltration valued at $20.4 million annually and reduce pollution costs by $8.09 million per year.
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