Cuyahoga Valley National ParkDesigning Stream andWetland RestorationProjects inCuyahoga ValleyNational ParkKevin SkerlEcol...
Wetland Restoration Planning
Stream Restoration Planning
Great Lakes Restoration at National Parks-Kevin Skerl, 2012
Great Lakes Restoration at National Parks-Kevin Skerl, 2012
Great Lakes Restoration at National Parks-Kevin Skerl, 2012
Great Lakes Restoration at National Parks-Kevin Skerl, 2012
Great Lakes Restoration at National Parks-Kevin Skerl, 2012
Great Lakes Restoration at National Parks-Kevin Skerl, 2012
Great Lakes Restoration at National Parks-Kevin Skerl, 2012
Great Lakes Restoration at National Parks-Kevin Skerl, 2012
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Great Lakes Restoration at National Parks-Kevin Skerl, 2012


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Unbeknownst to some, our Great Lakes national parks play a significant role in the effort to restore the great waters they represent. Each panelist will highlight a GLRI-supported project at a different park: restoring historic wetlands at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, researching changes in nearshore ecosystem dynamics at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and planning for wetland and stream improvements at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Discussion will explore how national parks can best contribute to Great Lakes restoration – given their abilities to serve as “living laboratories” and to directly engage the public (i.e., park visitors) through education and volunteerism, and will facilitate a debate on “research vs. on-the-ground restoration” in the context of GLRI funding allocations.

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  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park protects 33,000 acres and 22 miles of the Cuyahoga River, which is about 1/5 of the river’s length and over 6% of the watershed. The park plays a critical role in protecting water resources in the watershed, and harbors more than 190 miles of streams and 1400 wetlands totaling 1900 acres. Today I am going to talk about two planning efforts focused on the restoration of these park resources that were funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
  • Wetland areas in the Cuyahoga Valley floodplain have been affected by past land disturbances including clearing of land for agriculture, mining for topsoil, sand and gravel, filling, fly ash disposal, major alterations in hydrology such as ditching and berming, and the colonization of invasive species. While recovery of much of the area has occurred, the hydrologic separation of wetlands from the floodplain and the Cuyahoga River is maintained by the historic Ohio and Erie Canal and Towpath Trail (east of the river), the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (west of the river), and several roads. Creative restoration planning is need in this disturbed environment.
  • The NPS worked with VHB (Vanasse Hanglin Brustlin Inc.) and Davey Resource Group to evaluate wetland restoration opportunities in a 200-acre site west of the Cuyahoga River in Independence, Ohio that suffered from the various impacts I have just described. The objective was to develop conceptual wetland restoration proposals that could be considered for further development and design. Shown here are the study area in orange, current wetlands in blue, and large areas of apparent fill in purple. Near the center of the project area is a 15-acre wetland that was partially restored through fill removal under a mitigation project over 10 years ago.
  • The result of the $27K conceptual planning effort was a set of 7 wetland restoration projects that proposed fill removal, restoration of hydrologic regimes, some stream restoration actions, and wetland enhancement through invasive species control and reforestation. Estimated costs of design and implementation ranged from $500K to over $7 million. If fully implemented, these conceptual plans would result in the restoration of 21 acres and the enhancement of over 100 acres. I will highlight Project 2, located in the upper left section of the project area, which is the most ambitious and challenging project.
  • Project 2 includes efforts to restore hydrology and floodplain connectivity, while improving vegetation diversity through invasive species removal and native plant establishment. The installation of culverts beneath the existing railroad bed will reconnect the wetland to the river floodplain, approximately 7.8 acres of fill (114,000 cu yds) will be removed and restored. Approximately 1,100 linear feet of Brookside Creek will be restored from its current incised state. Eradication of invasive species and reestablishment of native plants would also be implemented. Almost 8 acres of restored wetland and 16 acres of enhancement would result at an estimated cost of 7 million, much of that cost linked to the signficant fill removal.
  • Stanford Run is a small tributary of the Cuyahoga River with a drainage area of 2 square miles, depicted here in orange. Our project area is the lower portion of this stream, between Stanford Road and the streams confluence with the River, in Boston Township.
  • Stanford Run is currently severely aggraded and impounded without access to the River due to failed culverts that used to carry it under the Ohio and Erie Canal and Towpath Trail. The historic culvert is missing from the upstream portion and the downstream portion was found to be undersized and at an elevation that would require significant excavation to restore flows. The stream has not had open connectivity to the river for approximately 40 years.
  • Stanford Run floods at its crossing of Stanford Road under normal rain events, due in part to blocked flows. The stream is heavily silted and eventually loses its defined channel, braiding into a large wetland complex essentially diked by the Canal berm.
  • The NPS is working with Lord, Aeck and Sargent, Atkins and Amec on ecological investigations, site survey, hydrologic and hydraulic models, an architectural evaluation of historical culverts, wetland delineation, and alternative development and evaluation. Conceptual designs to restore Stanford Run were completed in 2011, with final designs and construction drawings to be completed in June 2013. The GLRI funded this planning project at $173K.
  • Since the historic culvert was no longer suitable, several stream alignment alternatives that would use an existing footbridge as the new conveyance through the Canal and Towpath were considered. Alternative 2 (at the top of this image) was selected because it maintained a largely historic alignment, crossing the Canal just south of the historic culvert, and minimized new channel work and thereby protecting natural and cultural resources. Approximately 2500 linear feet of stream would be restored to natural flows at an estimated cost of $1.1 million.
  • Restoring floodplain wetlands and reconnecting a blocked stream to the river and Lake Erie will enhance water quality, habitat values and fish populations and help improve conditions in the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern. Since these projects are located in a National Park, when implemented they will be protected in perpetuity. Funding for restoration planning and design is rarely available through our usual fund sources, and rarely does anyone wish to design a project from start to finish. GLRI funding has allowed us to generate conceptual plans and an attractive 'shovel-ready' project that can be more easily implemented by partners with restoration funds or mitigation needs.
  • Great Lakes Restoration at National Parks-Kevin Skerl, 2012

    1. 1. Cuyahoga Valley National ParkDesigning Stream andWetland RestorationProjects inCuyahoga ValleyNational ParkKevin SkerlEcologistkevin_skerl@nps.gov330-650-5071 ext. 4
    2. 2. Wetland Restoration Planning
    3. 3. Stream Restoration Planning
    4. 4. Conclusion