TWINSBURG TWP.: The new Pond Brook has thoroughly befuddled wildlife.
A coyote growled at a construction worker and then took two steps forward on what it thought was familiar ground before falling into the rerouted stream in northern Summit County. It crawled out of the water and disappeared into the swamp white oaks, no worse for wear.
What had once been an ugly and unhealthy ditch is being transformed into a healthy and alive stream with riffles and meanders for Metro Parks, Serving Summit County.
The final meander, or curve, was dug out and bulldozed last month in 1,908-acre Liberty Park by a crew from Marks Excavating of Valley City.
The goal is to get rid of the degraded, shallow, straight and unshaded ditch with little wildlife habitat and turn it into a more desirable stream with twists, turns, riffles, pools, undercut banks and improved habitat.
There has been a marked improvement in fish and aquatic insects in Pond Brook, said Mike Johnson, chief of resource management for the park district.
The water even has a new color. A sickly gray-green has become a healthier greenish-brown.
Kent-based Davey Resource Group is supervising and directing the $451,900 project.
The latest phase required reshaping about 5,500 linear feet of the stream that is a tributary to Tinkers Creek, project manager Jessica Hickey-Miller said.
Tinkers Creek is a major tributary of the Cuyahoga River.
Johnson said that park officials believe that the Pond Brook reshaping is the biggest stream restoration project ever in Ohio.
The Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources acknowledge the project as one of the biggest in Ohio, but can’t say for sure because state agencies don’t keep such data.
The work, north of state Route 82 near the Summit-Portage county line, got underway in mid-January and the cold temperatures actually made the stream-shaping easier, Hickey-Miller said.
“The frozen soil was the best thing that could have happened to us,” she said.
Hickey-Miller said crews:
• Removed about 4,000 cubic yards of soils from Pond Brook.
• Placed about 100 root wads — tree trunks attached to roots — in the stream’s banks to reduce erosion and improve habitat for wildlife.
• Hauled in about 1,100 tons of stone and other natural materials as the stream was narrowed from 25 feet to 10 to 11 feet.
• Placed straw, in burlap bags, to reduce erosion in the 120-foot-wide, man-made, barren floodplain.
Crews will be back in April to plant thousands of shrubs and trees along the stream.
The new stream is 18 to 24 inches deep with deeper pools, Hickey-Miller said.
The work area is in the park’s Pond Brook Conservation Area and adjacent to the Buttonbush Trail that had been periodically closed for construction.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency provided $326,900 in federal funds for the stream work. The park district provided a local match of $125,000.
The stream restoration is expected to significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediments discharging from Pond Brook into Tinkers Creek and help improve overall water quality in the watershed.
Babette Oestreicher, watershed coordinator for the Tinker’s Creek Watershed Partners, a grass-roots group, has been pleased with the progress.
What Metro Parks is doing on Pond Brook is “a great asset not only to the communities along Pond Brook, but also to the entire watershed,” she said. “It’s a very positive thing ... that will boost the overall health of the watershed.”
Earlier, the park district had upgraded part of the main Pond Brook stream plus two tributaries in Liberty Park that lies in Twinsburg, Twinsburg Township and Reminderville.
That work reshaped about 6,500 feet of stream plus 2,300 feet of tributaries, Johnson said.
Work at Pond Brook has cost about $5.5 million since 2005. The park district paid about $300,000; the rest of the money came from grants and mitigation funds, he said.
Work is beginning on the last phase: another 7,500 linear feet that will complete the Pond Brook rebuilding from near state Route 82 south to Tinkers Creek.
The park district has gotten $860,000 through the Ohio EPA. Preliminary design work is getting underway by Oxbow River and Stream Restoration based in Delaware, Ohio. Construction is expected to begin in 2016.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.