Cooperatove Conservation Project

Stearns Farm Stream Restoration Project

Cuyahoga American Heritage River Supports Urban Stream Restoration

Location: Midwest/Northern High Plains Region: Ohio

Project Summary: This project is the restoration of an urban stream channel into a fully functioning headwater stream. This stream flows into Big Creek, the 3rd largest tributary to the Cuyahoga River.
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Tom Denbow (left), RAP President and James White (right), River Navigator and RAP Executive Director present Dale Bosworth (center), Chief of the Forest Service, with an American Heritage River commemorative plaque. This event hightlighted and applauded the support the U.S. Forest Service provided to this important cooperative community project. Photo Taken By: Charles C. Hambly
Resource Challenge

The momentum behind the Stearns Farm Stream Restoration Project ultimately stems from the environmental movement related to the Cuyahoga River. The long road to recovery on the Cuyahoga River started with the infamous fire of 1969. This event acted as a catalyst for a number of environmental actions, including the identification of the Lower Cuyahoga River, and many of its tributaries, as one of 43 Areas of Concern on the Great Lakes. Subsequently, Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) were formed to address pollution problems on all of the Areas of Concern, including the Cuyahoga River. The Cuyahoga River RAP was developed as a community driven effort to promote the renovation and preservation of the Cuyahoga River. In 1998, the Cuyahoga River recieved greater attention when it was federally designated as an American Heritage River.

The Cuyahoga AHR/RAP was instrumental in building the partnership and coordinating restoration project. The project is located in the Big Creek Watershed, which is a heavily urbanized, degraded tributary to the Cuyahoga River. 

Strearns Farm is a 48 acre historical farm that sits in the middle of theCity of Parma, the seventh largest city in Ohio.  Just off of a heavily developed road corridor, you will find the only remaining remnant of the city’s farming history. This property is an isolated green space of woodlands, meadows and streams, which has endured decades of surrounding urban activities. Upstream development and historical farming practices negatively impacted the health of the stream, causing sever erosion of the stream channel and allowing invasive species to flourish.

The project partners help to restore the urban stream and engage the local community by:

  • Restoring the stream channel and riparian area to more natural (pre-development) conditions,
  • Utilizing the project site as a science and educational land laboratory for students, local officials and the community.
Examples of Key Partners
The Project was coordinated by staff of the Cuyahoga River Remedial Action Plan (RAP) which is the lead community partner for the Cuyahoga American Heritage Initiative (AHRI). Funding by the Forest Service for the Cuyahoga AHR program provided the link to coalesce the grant and community resources for the Stearns Farm Stream Restoration Project. RAP/AHR staff secured two grants for the project, which restored the natural hydrology and plant life to an urbanized stream flowing through historic Stearns Farm Homestead. Key participants included the city of Parma, West Creek Preservation Committee, Cuyahoga County Board of Health, U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA, City of Parma Park Advisory Committee, local business community support and others. The project's progress is featured on the Cuyahoga River RAP website.
Results and Accomplishments

The project helped restore 1,100 feet of stream channel and approximately 2 acres of floodplain and streamside vegetation. The stream channel was reshaped to include new features, such as, an accessable floodplain to store storm water; a more meandering, or S-shaped, channel to hold more water; and a corridor of native trees, shrubs and grasses to improve stream and terrestrial habitat.

A stream restoration booklet is being produced. The partnership documented the process involved in completing the stream restoration project. Highlighting the steps that a project must follow as it moves from conceptualization to reality, it will be featured as a subject in the Cuyahoga American Heritage River Guide to Watershed Stewardship brochure series. Key steps include: Gathering Community and Financial Support, Detail Design Development, Permits and Approvals, On-site Logistics Management and Ongoing Site Management as the project matures into a stable system.

The process will also be highly instructive for understanding how to sustain a project, while coping with aggressive deer populations, the vagaries of NE Ohio weather, and unrelated political storms.

Through this project, partnerships have grown and strengthened, which will help foster similar watershed stewardship efforts in the future.


The Cuyahoga River is one of only 14 federally designated American Heritage Rivers (AHR) in the United States. Funding by the Forest Service for the Cuyahoga AHR program provided the link to coalesce the grants and community resources for the Stearns Farm Urban Stream Restoration Project. The goal of the American Heritage River Initiative is to promote environmental, economic and cultural revitalization for America's Heritage Rivers.

Project Contact
James White
Executive Director / River Navigator
Cuyahoga River Remedial Action Plan (RAP) / Cuyahoga American Heritage River
1299 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
216-241-2414 x307
Charles C. Hambly
Watershed Planner
Cuyahoga River Remedial Action Plan (RAP)
1299 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
216-241-2414 x253

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