MILL CREEK takes a southerly course through Cleveland's east side suburbs for its first half, its watershed becoming progressively more urbanized as the creek approaches I-480 and turns north along Broadway Avenue, then takes a sharp turn southward and into the valley to join the lower Cuyahoga River at the border between Cuyahoga Heights and Garfield Heights. From its headwaters in Beachwood and Shaker Heights, with major tributaries joining from Garfield and Maple Heights, to its outflow into the Cuyahoga River, the creek flows through 9 communities. Much of the creek's course weaves under and alongside major roadways and railroad tracks, where it has been largely undervalued as a natural setting, even ignored except when flooding sends it over its banks.
In spite of more than a century of hard use, Mill Creek is, in fact, an jewel waiting to be restored. Mill Creek Falls, the largest waterfall in Cuyahoga County, is located in the Cleveland Metroparks' Garfield Reservation. Although the area is rapidly being developed, the section where headwater streams join the main watercourse in Highland Hills still contains large areas of natural marsh and grass meadows.
Unfortunately, over the last 150 years, the growth of Greater Cleveland's industrial and commercial areas, transportation byways and residential neighborhoods have taken their toll on the Creek. The result has been vast areas where streambanks have been lined with concrete, buried in culverts beneath bridges and roads, or eroded as storm water courses over paved surfaces. Riparian corridors, floodplains and wetlands have been lost or severely fragmented.
LOCATION: Northeast Ohio, Cuyahoga County, including the communities of Beachwood, Cleveland, Cuyahoga Heights, Garfield Heights, Highland Hills, Maple Heights, North Randall, Shaker Heights and Warrensville Heights.
Drainage: Approximately 19 square miles
Length: 12.2 miles
Gradient: Average gradient of 53.5 ft/mile
Land Cover: Primarily urbanized - contains "suburbanized" areas of lawn, golf courses, "commercialized" areas of parking lots, roadways, large roofs, and "industrialized" areas of railyards and railways, and light industry.
WATERSHED-SPECIFIC CHALLENGES TO HEALTH AND FUNCTION
• Increased volumes of water from loss of habitat, tree canopy, wetlands and riparian zones, replaced by large tracts of impervious surfaces, creating faster flows into the creek, causing erosion and sedimentation, and aging common trench sewers, carrying urban runoff, creating poor water quality and degraded aquatic life.
GEOLOGY Dense subsurface soils keep water from filtering down, while looser surface soils erode easily.
WATER QUALITY Poor.
MILL CREEK WETLANDS, PRIORITIZED
Well-functioning and ample wetlands are essential pieces of a watershed's health and surface water management. In 2009, CRCPO prepared a report describing wetlands in the Mill Creek watershed and prioritizing them in terms of quality and restoration potential. These pdf files (click on each to download) include the overview of the highest ranked wetlands in the Mill Creek watershed, and files with details for each of those wetlands. The "Analysis" file includes all the identified wetlands in the watershed, with ranking data. Many of the most important wetlands in this watershed have, since this report was completed, already been filled in and developed, making it even more important to protect and improve remaining wetlands.
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