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Environment & Energy

Cuyahoga Falls Cleans Up For River Day

photo of Marissa Dove, Gideon Dove, Becky McCleary

More than 100 people marked Great American River Day over the weekend in Cuyahoga Falls, a city which has seen its portion of the Cuyahoga River bounce back in recent years.

The volunteers came out to Waterworks Park on Saturday ready to pick up litter, pull weeds and plant flowers. Although the park is not on the river, it does house a portion of Kelsey Creek, which feeds the Cuyahoga.

Becky McCleary has been with the City of Cuyahoga Falls for 25 years, and is currently its Public Utilities education coordinator. She says projects like River Day, as well as recent dam removals, are helping to repair the health of the river. And she said volunteers also put barriers around 75 trees that were planted last fall at Riverfront Park near downtown.

“We realized that we needed to provide better habitat along the riparian -- along the river. So those trees are still little and they need to have some protection from wildlife.”

The new trees are in an area that also has a new boat launch, funded with a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

McCleary says increased awareness about the importance of river health has played a major role in stemming pollution. But she also credits the removals of two low-head dams in the city in 2013.

“It definitely improves oxygenation of the water, the end water habitat [and] the riparian habitat. It improves the quality of the water so the little bugs and fishes that are indicative of healthy water – we find those a lot more. In fact we’ve seen fish – and I’m not a fish expert – but we’ve seen fish we haven’t seen in 50 years.”

McCleary says the city has partnered with the Ohio EPA to also remove the Gorge Dam, hopefully within five years. And she says the Ohio EPA has approved the second phase of the restoration project for Kelsey Creek, which feeds the Cuyahoga.