WEST CREEK RESERVATION is bounded by West Pleasant Valley Road to the south, Broadview Road to the east, and West Ridgewood Drive to the north in the city of PARMA. It opened as the sixteenth park reservation in the CLEVELAND METROPARKS in 2006. Totaling 278 acres at the time, the property sits at the midsection of a nine-mile natural corridor guiding the West Creek tributary from its headwaters in northern BROADVIEW HEIGHTS to its confluence with the CUYAHOGA RIVER in INDEPENDENCE. Within the reservation, the valley climbs through a floodplain of wetlands and meadows into forested slopes of oaks, maples, and pines. At places its hillsides narrow into sheer sandstone ravines.
Like those other urban green spaces incorporated relatively late into the Metroparks system—(GARFIELD PARK) (1986), (BROOKSIDE PARK) (1993), Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation (1999), and WASHINGTON RESERVATION (2003)—the tract alongside West Creek had experienced severe ecological degredation over the preceding decades, resulting from a combination of poor maintenance and encroaching residential, commercial, and industrial development. The creek valley had remained largely undisturbed well into the 1900s; in 1920, the Cleveland Metropolitan Park Board considered purchasing a section, noting the region's "natural abundance." Coming with the post-World War II suburbanization of southwestern and central Cuyahoga County, however, West Creek entered a period of intensive environmental change. New high-density housing and business lots drastically reduced the soil permeability of its watershed, causing the creek to become deluged at times with run-off from combined sewers, storm drains, and paved surfaces. As part of the construction of Interstate 480 in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a northern section of the waterway was realigned and channelized, which lowered its biodiversity and increased its tendency to flood. These effects were compounded by other newly added dams, culverts, and retention basins along its course. Moreover, suburban growth brought widespread legal and illegal dumping throughout the creek valley, including a 22-acre municipal waste and construction debris landfill near Rockside Drive, which was opened by the City of Parma in the mid-1960s.
Contemporary efforts to rehabilitate West Creek and its surrounding watershed began in 1998, when Parma residents passed a November ballot initiative establishing the city's 140-acre holdings in the valley as a municipal nature preserve. The measure had been introduced by the West Creek Preservation Committee, a grassroots organization of Parma residents formed in 1997, and was prompted in part by another land use proposal to develop the valley area into an 18-hole golf facility and banquet hall. In 2000, another successful ballot initiative extended the city-managed West Creek Preserve by authorizing the purchase of 72 adjoining acres from television broadcaster Gannett Communications, Inc. (As of 2006, Gannett continued to operate three broadcasting towers on a 54-acre parcel next to the reservation.) The following year, in 2001, the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission completed an environmental management plan for restoring the West Creek region, funded by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the CLEVELAND FOUNDATION, The George Gund Foundation, the West Creek Preservation Committee, and the cities of BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, Parma, Independence, and SEVEN HILLS. Negotiations to transfer management of the preserve to the Cleveland Metroparks began in 2004.
Between 2002 and 2005, a 2-acre wetland area was reconstructed between the site's former municipal waste and construction landfills. The project was overseen by staff and students from CUYAHOGA COMMUNITY COLLEGE and received support from the City of Parma, the West Creek Preservation Committee, the state's Lake Erie Commission, and North Royalton-based HB Engineering, Inc.
The ongoing effort to improve environmental conditions in the reservation and larger West Creek Valley, as of 2006, consisted of various overlapping state- and locally-funded projects. Plans to develop park trails and visitor facilities, including an on-site watershed educational center, entailed participation of the Metroparks, West Creek Preservation Committee, and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. A related proposal to link the reservation to neighboring outdoor recreation areas, such as Brooklyn Heights Park and a section of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, also involved collaboration with the local non-profit group Ohio Canal Corridor.
Helping fund broader ecological restoration initiatives throughout the creek valley, the West Creek Preservation Committee received an Ohio EPA Non-Point Source Pollution Program Grant in June of 2006. At the time, the Committe also had purchased and begun restoration of the historic Henninger House on Rockside Road nearby the reservation. The homestead, which was built in 1849 by early Parma settler and quarry owner Phillip Henninger, was then under consideration as a possible trailhead facility and West Creek regional information center.