This project is an example of dedicated property owners and multiple agencies including the City of Bedford, the Cuyahoga Land Bank, Tinker’s Creek Watershed Partners (TCWP), and West Creek Conservancy (WCC) working together towards a common goal of greenspace protection for a healthy community and watershed.
In the spring of 2014, Deborah (Gries) Zawislan contacted Tinker’s Creek Watershed Partners (TCWP) about a property she and her brothers Joe, Ed, and Dennis had inherited. They had a vision of transforming the property into a protected greenspace– “Lorry’s Woods”- in honor of their mother.
The Gries property consisted of 3.65 acres of land with Bear Creek, a tributary creek that begins in Highland Hills and meets the main stem of Tinker’s Creek, bordering the property. The inherited property had four buildings on site, which were not up to code. Two of the buildings, rental properties, were also built within the floodplain of the stream, constricting the natural habitat and flow of the stream.
“Donating the land is important to my brothers and me because we all have memories of growing up in the woods on the property,” said Deborah. “We would sled ride and ice skate in winter and climb trees and play in our tree fort in the summer.”
Babette Gowda, at TCWP, began to work with Deborah to move the property from that vision of a protected greenspace to a reality. Since TCWP does not hold land, we reached out to WCC and asked them to partner on the project.
With the cooperation of the City of Bedford, the Cuyahoga Land Bank helped to bring the property back to its natural state. The Gries family donated the property to the Cuyahoga Land Bank and they demolished the structures at their cost.
“This area does not have a lot of undeveloped waterfront access so it’s really exciting to be a part of a project that brings back the beauty of the creek for everyone to enjoy,” said Gus Frangos, President of the Cuyahoga Land Bank.
With the demolition complete, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has gifted the property to West Creek Conservancy, who will hold it in perpetuity as protected land, actively maintaining the portion visible from the road. The Gries property is now a flourishing greenspace for the public to enjoy.
“This initiative is a prime example of utilizing the resources our great region has to offer in order to protect another great resource – Tinker’s Creek!” said Derek Schafer, Executive Director of West Creek Conservancy. “We are extremely grateful to the Gries Family, TCWP, and the City of Bedford for their support, and for the Land Bank’s tremendous efforts and contribution to the project. Reclaiming this section of Tinker’s Creek was only possible by a strong network of support and collaboration.”
The removal of the structures will help reduce the about of impervious surfaces on site and help the property to return to a more natural state. This will help the community and watershed by providing an area for the stream to flood its banks, reduce flooding, and create habitat.