Stopping Erosion to Keep Our Big Lands Accessible

When you think of Great Parks, some of Hamilton County’s great waterways may come to mind. From Lake Isabella along the Little Miami River in the northeast, to Shawnee Lookout along the Ohio and Great Miami rivers in the southwest, Great Parks offers 25 miles of river frontage and dozens of spectacular lakeside views throughout Hamilton County.

However, with so much water across our big lands, we always must be aware of the power of erosion to degrade these spaces. Water erosion is a natural process that has molded the planet into the valleys, hillsides, mountains, and cliffsides that are familiar today. But erosion also has the potential to cause major damage to important areas of our parks, limiting access and harming ecosystems.

Erosion problems are among those included in our Ten-Year Critical Infrastructure Needs study, which lists over $100 million in projects that need attention. Infrastructure repairs were included in our commitment to Hamilton County when voters approved the 2021 levy.

Unwanted Impacts of Erosion

Many of our Great Parks are surrounded by significant commercial development. While the proximity to these developed places adds convenience to our day-to-day lives, it also means our parks and conservation areas are now closer to parking lots, streets, and expanses of asphalt and concrete. These impervious surfaces do not allow rainwater to soak in, increasing the amount and speed of water runoff, which makes erosion worse.

On land, erosion cuts away the soil and can cause safety hazards at the water’s edge. Our Conservation and Planning teams are often called in to address erosion damage among the more than 80 miles of trails in Great Parks. Eroded areas of the land can also hold less water, which causes worse flooding.

By introducing more soil into the water, erosion can cause excess siltation in creeks, which is a form of water pollution. The increased sediment decreases water quality and is not good for fish, turtles, frogs, and other wildlife. For example, Hamilton County is a global hotbed of diversity for freshwater mussels, which are highly impacted by sedimentation. Some are even endangered, which calls for extra care.

Often out of sight, storm pipes and basins can be particularly susceptible to erosion, with major, expensive impacts. Our engineering and park management teams are doing all we can to address erosion, protecting the investments Great Parks is making into new places and legacy spaces, while also remaining vigilant for some of the less visible damage caused by water.

Miami Whitewater Forest

Along some of our larger drainage areas, erosion can be inevitable. Near the 18th hole on the Miami Whitewater Forest Golf Course we are starting to replace a 33” by 49” drainage pipe. The bottom left and bottom right of this pipe have disintegrated into wide gaps, with the ground below showing right through. During rainfall, water gushes through the sides and the pipe cannot function properly.

Once out of the pipe, water is washing away dirt along its sides.

The water is relentless, even washing out the underside of a concrete spillway at the end of the pipe, which has now snapped off and collapsed into the creek.

Great Parks is working to identify a contractor to repair this damage.

Almost half of the current projects in the Great Parks engineering department are for existing infrastructure, so these are priorities for us. Repairs like this will be necessary from time to time to keep the parks in safe, working order. This work is critical in Great Parks’ stewardship of our amazing natural areas, and just as important as the more visible improvements that are in the public eye.

Update – Woodland Mound

We recently told you about a 36” culvert pipe that is failing at Woodland Mound. Erosion is the problem here as well, and we are taking action now to prevent more costly repairs to the hillside and nearby road that will be necessary if we do not act. Our current plan is to stabilize the hillside and repair portions of the pipe, which will be more cost-effective and less disruptive to the nearby habitat than other options we considered.