Former Associate Director of the Chagrin River Watershed Partners Alicia Beattie looked back fondly on her time with the organization as she takes on a new position in Minnesota. After working to improve the Chagrin River watershed since July of 2016, she will now work with the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization in Minneapolis.
The Chagrin River watershed drains across 267 square miles, Ms. Beattie said, and there are 35 members of the watershed partners, including communities, park districts and Lake County. As associate director, Ms. Beattie oversaw daily operations like member and partner services and developing new programs and projects.
“I’m going to miss Ohio,” she said last week. “It’s been a great four years and a place I’ll always consider my home away from home. I met a lot of great people; these people really care about the streams, rivers and parks. There’s a sense of pride out here.”
Ms. Beattie said that she spent much of her time writing watershed plans depending on the specific needs of a member community, park district or county. There used to be one plan for the entire Chagrin River watershed. The Ohio EPA later changed the requirement to have multiple smaller plans for different geographic regions, so there are now seven watershed plans for the Chagrin River.
A watershed plan details the challenges and the opportunities within a watershed. Different watersheds have different priorities, she said. For example, some communities might want to focus on riparian setbacks while others want to improve their stormwater management.
Ms. Beattie worked on multiple complex projects, including the Griswold Creek restoration at Bessie Benner Metzenbaum Park in Chester Township and the Chagrin River bank stabilization in Gates Mills. Overall, Ms. Beattie said that it is not enough to plant trees to sustain an ecosystem. Rather, one must ensure the habitat will be managed long-term, such as managing invasive species and doing survey work for emerging and past diseases.
“A healthy forest provides a big role in keeping streams cool, which is important for fish and salamanders,” she said. “It’s been really great to work with a variety of projects and approaches based on needs in the area. Some are high quality and need invasive species management, but in other areas the focus is more on stormwater management and restoring habitats that have been degraded.”
Ms. Beattie said that the Chagrin River watershed is in an interesting location because it is in Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties. Cuyahoga County is more developed than Geauga, and the mouth of the river in Eastlake is also a developed part of Lake County. The river is unique because of its designation as a scenic river, she said.
About 71 miles of the Chagrin River has a scenic river designation, and she said that there are many high-quality coldwater stream habitats. Ms. Beattie said that much of the river has a healthy forest cover due to preservation efforts and the habitat is home to many species of birds. Her most important piece of advice is to maintain strong relationships with other members of the watershed partners because everyone’s actions affect the river downstream.