May 3, 2021 (Chagrin Falls, OH) – Celebrating 25 years, Chagrin River Watershed Partners (CRWP) continues to connect people to care for our watersheds. A watershed is an area of land where all the precipitation and groundwater drains to a common body of water, and healthy watersheds support vibrant communities. Together through partnerships, CRWP protects and restores streams, wetlands, and forests that provide clean water for homes, businesses, and wildlife.

Over the last 25 years, a $2.9 million investment in membership dues by local communities, counties, and park districts has been leveraged with over $55 million in funding and partner support to steward streams, plan for sustainable development, build nature-based solutions to stormwater runoff and enhance parks to connect people with local streams and Lake Erie. CRWP’s on-the-ground work enhances quality of life, avoids costs, and increases resilience to storms and flooding. Our approach involving community decision makers and collaborative partnerships is key to CRWP’s success. Since 1996, we have worked with our members and partners to:

• Protect or restore over 939 miles of streams and stream corridor
• Protect over 2,946 acres of land and 287 acres of wetlands
• Plant over 48,000 trees
• Preserve wetlands and construct nature-based solutions that will prevent 377 trillion gallons of polluted runoff from reaching streams

A History Rich in Community Connections

The State Scenic Chagrin River drains 267 square miles to Lake Erie in northeast Ohio. The watershed is home to high quality aquatic habitat and forests, including coldwater streams that are home to the native Ohio brook trout. “In October of 1995, a small group of dedicated conservationists gathered in the Chagrin Valley to plan for the formation of a watershed coalition”, said CRWP founder and former president Greg Studen. “With the Valley facing increasing problems of flooding, erosion, and loss of open space, concerned citizens saw a need for cooperative action to protect natural resources and ensure the long-term health of the watershed. By February of 1996, an alliance of communities, counties and park districts in the Chagrin Watershed came together to incorporate the Chagrin River Watershed Partners. Twenty-five years later, the coalition is thriving”, Studen continued.

CRWP’s founding principles, still followed today, are that natural systems benefit people, plants and animals through free flood control, erosion control, and water quality protection and preserving these areas as land is developed is a more cost-effective and preventative approach than fixing problems after the fact. Working together, the Partners have made great strides in protecting and restoring the Chagrin River, our region’s watersheds, and Lake Erie.

CRWP Today

Today, Chagrin River Watershed Partners works with 36 members representing over 91% of the land area in the Chagrin River watershed as well as parts of the Cuyahoga, Grand River and other direct Lake Erie tributary watersheds. Current CRWP members include Auburn Township, Aurora, Bainbridge Township, Beachwood, Bentleyville, Chagrin Falls Township, Chagrin Falls Village, Chardon, Chardon Township, Cleveland Metroparks, Eastlake, Gates Mills, Geauga Park District, Hunting Valley, Kirtland, Kirtland Hills, Lake County, Lake Metroparks, Mantua Township, Mayfield Heights, Mayfield Village, Mentor, Moreland Hills, Munson Township, Newbury Township, Orange Village, Pepper Pike, Russell Township, Solon, South Russell, Streetsboro, Waite Hill, Wickliffe, Willoughby, Willoughby Hills, Woodmere.

CRWP helps its members and partners maintain stream and wetland functions as land is developed and provides cost-effective, prevention-focused solutions to natural resource management problems as communities grow. CRWP has developed trusted relationships with local officials and their law directors, engineers, planners, and other professional advisors. These relationships help local governments see the benefits of adopting innovative zoning and watershed management practices to minimize the impacts of land use change. “CRWP helped Orange Village adopt stream setback and stormwater ordinances that prevent flooding and erosion and preserve water quality,” said CRWP treasurer and Orange Village Mayor Kathy Mulcahy. “CRWP also helped the Village secure grants to work with nature to reduce street flooding in a residential neighborhood, manage runoff from our service department, and plant trees to enhance our community park”.

Extending Our Impact

CRWP also works with partners and communities across Ohio’s Central Lake Erie Basin through the Central Lake Erie Basin Collaborative, a unique network of organizations accelerating progress toward their collective goal of protecting and restoring Lake Erie and its watersheds. Extending from Erie County near Sandusky to the Pennsylvania state line, watersheds served by the Collaborative includes highly urbanized areas as well as rural, agricultural, and forested lands threatened by a range of issues, including stormwater runoff that pollutes streams, floods properties and overwhelms sewers and ditches. Through the Collaborative, CRWP’s skilled team of experts helps watershed organizations and communities plan and secure funding to protect and restore natural areas, treat and reduce stormwater runoff, and enhance parks. By sharing staff and services, members of the network learn from each other and hone their skills.

CRWP’s former president Greg Studen reflected, “Over 25 years, we have attracted high-quality talent, and have assembled a successful team of watershed experts who work closely with our community members every day. With the dedicated support of our members, we are proud to be leading the way in protecting the resources and natural beauty of the Chagrin Valley, and the entire Central Basin of Lake Erie. Two lessons from this great story stand out. The first is that a team of highly trained professionals, expert in implementing nature-based solutions to watershed problems, can have a dramatic positive impact on protecting and enhancing our environment. The second is that cooperative action, uniting communities and people at the grass roots level, is the most effective approach for solving problems that affect the watershed and Lake Erie as a whole”.

The Collaborative provides a collective voice for regional goals and priorities and develops unified messaging on watershed stewardship. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources looks to the Collaborative as a partner to identify and develop projects for H2Ohio, a new statewide initiative aimed at tackling the challenges of protecting and enhancing Ohio’s water resources. “The Collaborative has enabled CRWP to become a technical and scientific resource for the entire area”, said president and Chagrin Falls Mayor Bill Tomko. “We have found that combining local engagement with scientific knowledge is the most effective way to develop and implement successful plans. By closely working with our members and partners we can achieve important environmental goals and enhance the quality of life in our communities,” said Tomko, summing up CRWP’s impact.

 

CONTACT: Heather Elmer, Chagrin River Watershed Partners (440) 975-3870 extension 1001 or helmer@crwp.org