Restoration project launches at Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve

The people of Cleveland and the birds they love to watch will benefit from a coastal restoration project launched July 11 at the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve.

A crew from The Nature Conservancy began work with hand tools and herbicide, aiming to eradicate patches of aggressive, non-native plants that crowd out native vegetation and make the unusual shoreline habitat represented at the preserve less hospitable to many birds and other animals.

“Tens of thousands of Clevelanders and visitors come to the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve each year and one of the greatest attractions is the 280 species of birds that have been spotted there,” said Linda Sternheimer, Director of Urban Planning and Engagement for the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority, which opened the 88-acre preserve east of downtown in 2012.

The Nature Preserve originally was created as a confined disposal facility to hold sediment dredged from the Cuyahoga riverbed to keep the shipping channel open. When sediment placement ended in 1999, the soil settled and an amazing array of flora and fauna gradually claimed the site. Today, one can find multiple habitats and animals as diverse as coyotes, minks, foxes and deer (to name just a few) onsite. Audubon Ohio has designated it an Important Bird Area.

“This project will help restore the native vegetation most preferred by the nesting and migratory birds that our visitors love to see, not to mention the many mammals, reptiles and butterflies that find sanctuary in the preserve,” Sternheimer said.

The preserve is one of several lakeshore properties, from Cleveland to Ashtabula, where The Nature Conservancy will be working to restore natural beach and dune habitats. The effort involves multiple partners and uses funds from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a program created by Congress targeting the most significant problems confronting communities in the Great Lakes basin, said Zachary Kron, Northeast Ohio Coastal Invasives Project Manager for The Nature Conservancy.

“Lake Erie has so little coastal habitat that hasn’t been built upon or otherwise altered,” Kron said. “The Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, located in the middle of a highly urbanized area, is very important to native plants and animals, including migratory birds, as well as to the people of Cleveland.”

With the help of funding through the GLRI, the conservancy has been restoring habitat throughout the Lake Erie basin for five years, said Karen Adair, the conservancy’s Central Lake Erie Basin Project Manager. “We’re very excited about this most recent coastal project because this is the first unified effort among coastal landowners in Northeast Ohio to improve the vegetation and habitats along the shoreline.”

The $650,000 grant will help many of the most important coastal sites in northeast Ohio, including Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, Mentor Marsh, Headlands Dunes, Lake Erie Bluffs, Arcola Creek and Walnut Beach.

In addition to the port authority, partners include Cleveland Museum of Natural History, City of Mentor, City of Ashtabula, North Perry Village, Lake Metroparks, ODNR – Division of Natural Areas and Preserves and several private landowners. The Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative and Ohio Ornithological Society support the project, as well.

Maritime Editorial