In recent years, many communities have implemented options for protecting valuable natural resources.

photo of West Creek
Priority conservation areas can take many forms but often seek to protect critical areas that line our rivers and waterways.

These options include setting aside land for conservation or utilizing site-sensitive design and cluster development strategies that reduces negative impacts on the environment. These sustainable development practices serve to reduce development costs related to grading and site preparation, storm water management, and the construction of infrastructure such as road and utilities, and have been shown to enhance the value of the lots sold. Common Ground, The Land Protection Report of Northern Ohio published by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, recommends a developed community such as Cuyahoga County is best served if it can sustain 15% of its land in permanent protected conservation status.1

The Priority Protection Areas consist of two distinct layers: Priority Protection Catchments: almost 33,000 acres identified by Cleveland Metroparks as areas beyond reservation boundaries that directly contribute to the natural resource conditions of the parks;2 and Priority Conservation Areas (PCAs): locally designated areas for protection and restoration from Balanced Growth Plans. Balanced Growth Ohio, a voluntary and incentive based program, promotes best local land use practices and offers a framework to develop municipal and watershed plans which sustain both economic development and conservation. Four state endorsed Balanced Growth Watershed Plans identify PCAs in Cuyahoga County:

  • Chippewa Creek,
  • Chagrin River,
  • Big Creek, and
  • Furnace Run.

Even without a Balanced Growth Plan, many local watershed groups have identified sensitive areas and preferred conservation areas.

Importance and Value

Striking a balance between built spaces and natural spaces and securing that balance over time is critical. This assures that nature functions well and that natural areas are accessible to people as part of the overall quality of life for the region.image of sunny pond

  • Priority Protection Areas are sources of clean air, clean water and biological diversity
  • Large natural areas have a greater positive impact on nearby property values.
  • The protection of natural areas can help resolve water-related environmental problems.
  • PCAs provide the needed habitat for mammals, birds, insects and seeds to survive as well as economic opportunities because they attract nature lovers or ecotourists.
  • Priority Protection Areas offer environmental education opportunities.
  • Presence of protected natural areas within the urban fabric can serve to counter-balance the stress and strain of modern life.

Actions for Communities and Land Owners

  • Develop a state endorsed Balanced Growth Plan.
  • Identify and protect important natural features. It is essential for communities to have a detailed inventory and evaluation of resources in order to determine priority areas for conservation.
  • Protect natural areas area through purchase, conservation easement or with restricted, sensitive development requirements.
  • Coordinate with a watershed or land conservation group to restore degraded landscapes to their prior state or to what they would have become without disruption.image of towpath
  • Consider converting vacant space and/or brownfields that are adjacent to parks and preserves into green space.
  • Ensure the integrity and sustainability of natural areas with plants and animals that are both native and resilient (can resist disturbance); to further enhance the natural value.
  • Promote infill development and brownfield redevelopment rather than greenfield development
  • Use cluster or conservation development strategies. Develop homes on a smaller portion of the total available land. The remaining land, which would have been allocated to individual home sites, then becomes protected open space shared by the residents of the subdivision and possibly the entire community. Conservation development is characterized by three features:
    • At least 40% of the land in the development is dedicated as open space.
    • The open space is high quality and linked to other areas of open space.
    • The design of the open space protects natural and cultural resources.
  • Enhance habitat on private property through landowner enrollment in state and federal conservation programs.
  • Take advantage of Clean Ohio Green Space Conservation Program and other funding programs to help set aside land for conservation.

Resources for More Information

1 Common Ground: The Land Protection Report for Northern Ohio (PDF)
2 Cleveland Metroparks: Reservations Concept Plans (PDF)