In a video that CNN shared in August, Mike Johnson, the chief of conservation for Summit Metro Parks, introduces the incredible Valley View Area of Cascade Valley Metro Park, which was all close-cropped grass just a few years ago. “Today, you would never know that this was ever a golf course,” he says.
The park is brilliant green with thriving plants and scattered trees. The Cuyahoga River runs through the gently rolling landscape. Johnson points out native species such as mallow plants while birds sing in the background.
“The vegetation that you see behind me, 90% of it is native, whereas when this was a golf course, 90% of it was non-native and invasive,” Johnson says. Native plants provide food and shelter for local wildlife species, leading to healthy and diverse ecosystems, while invasive plants and animals take over and destroy the other species in their environment.
Lisa King, executive director of Summit Metro Parks, explains the importance of the former golf course to the park program. “We realized how important it was to connect the other two parks to this area,” she says. “It allowed us to knit together 1,800 acres.”
Large wildlife preserves are healthier than multiple separate small ones because animals can travel and interbreed freely — one of the main reasons that some national parks install wildlife crossings over or under roads. Valley View serves a similar purpose for Cascade Valley Metro Park.
Getting the park to that point was not easy. To restore the river, which had been dug out, Summit Metro Parks brought in heavy equipment to reshape the soil. “The golf course, they wanted to keep the water out,” says Johnson. “We wanted to bring the water back into the landscape.”
Summit Metro Parks also welcomed over 600 volunteers to plant 120,000 donated nuts across the landscape.
Johnson also explains why it’s so important to restore areas like Cascade Valley Metro Park.
“These parks and the wetlands and the streams filter pollutants from the water that we eventually drink,” he says. “They clean the air. They provide habitat for wildlife, including a large array of endangered species we have here in Summit County. … They’re important for recreation and … for especially young people to connect with nature and inspire them to become the next generation of land stewards.”
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