The park district announced January 11 that the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program has awarded Summit Metro Parks $2.6 million for critical infrastructure and ecological improvements in Sand Run Metro Park. This funding complements work already underway with a previously awarded $2 million Clean Ohio grant. Together, this $4.6 million funding package allows Summit Metro Parks to move forward with erosion control and habitat enhancement projects vital to the long-term sustainability of its oldest and most-visited park.
“As we celebrate our centennial anniversary, we are grateful to receive this funding to ensure that Sand Run Metro Park can continue to serve Summit County residents for the next 100 years,” said Executive Director Lisa King. “This park is facing serious challenges from stormwater runoff and we appreciate the public’s patience as we make repairs that are essential to protecting Sand Run Parkway, the Jogging Trail and the ecological integrity of this beloved local gem.”
In addition to aging infrastructure, Sand Run Metro Park’s roads, trails and namesake stream are facing two significant challenges:
- Because the Sand Run is located in an area that has been highly developed with homes, shopping centers and roads, stormwater runoff has created significant erosion in the park and destabilized the stream’s banks.
- Over the decades, infrastructure such as roads, culverts and pipelines have been built as the surrounding communities were developed, creating migration barriers that make it extremely difficult for fish to travel freely throughout the waterway.
As discussed in Part I of our series of Sand Run updates, this project is broken into two major phases and will result in rolling road and trail closures over the next two years.
Phase I is currently underway to address a pedestrian bridge in need of repair, restore stream conditions and improve wildlife habitat in the park. For the safety of construction crews and the public, closure of Sand Run Parkway and the Jogging Trail between Revere Rd. and Sand Run Rd. will continue into Spring 2021 to complete this initial work.
This new FEMA grant funding secures Phase II of construction — which is expected to begin in Late Summer/Fall 2021 and will include projects to control erosion throughout the park and additional in-stream habitats improvements.
But why are in-stream habitat improvements necessary or important?
Proper fish habitat provides the right environment for fish populations to successfully reproduce, raise young and hide from predators. Man-made alterations over time have impacted the quality of fish habitat in Sand Run stream and have created barriers to their migration. Thriving fish populations affect both wildlife and humans alike.
During the current road and trail closures, the parking lots at Old Portage, Lone Spruce, Wadsworth and Shadowfield Areas remain open. The Parkway and the Jogging Trail are open between Sand Run Rd. and Portage Path, and pedestrians are also invited to use the portion of Sand Run Parkway between Portage Path and Merriman Rd., which is currently closed to vehicle traffic. From there, visitors may enjoy connecting to the Towpath Trail at the Big Bend Area.
In the future, Summit Metro Parks will also implement a suite of educational programming and tools to assist homeowners and businesses within the watershed reduce stormwater runoff to the park.
This article is the second in a series to keep Summit County residents informed on progress towards restoring and protecting Sand Run Metro Park. Stay tuned for more updates and tips for getting involved!