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Documenting How Acacia Golf Course Became A Green Space

What was once home to golfers is now a spot for birders and dog walkers to enjoy the outdoors, right across from Beachwood Place in Lyndhurst. Six years ago the non-profit Conservation Fund purchased Acacia Country Club and deeded the land to Cleveland Metroparks with a mission to return the 155 acres to its natural state. 

So how is the process coming? 

Perhaps no one can better answer that question that Stuart and Jeanne Pearl.

For the last five years, Pearl, a photographer and his wife Jeanne, an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist have been documenting the transition of Acacia going from a well-manicured golf course to a nature reservation.

In order to accurately capture how the landscape is changing, a specific plan was put into place.

“The original job was to photograph specifically located stake positions.  So every spring, summer and fall, we navigate out to 39 stake points. I photograph the stake and then take pictures north, south, east and west.  Along the way, if I see anything interesting going on that I feel will be a good documentation of the transition of Acacia, I like to photograph that too,” said Pearl.

Jeanne Pearl says keeping track of the spots can be a challenge.

“In the beginning it was easier to find the stakes because they were visible. Now as plants and other things start to grow, it is a little more difficult even with using GPS to find them.”

Having an abundant water supply is essential to spurring the growth of vegetation that’s needed to return the course to a heavily forested area.  A section of Euclid Creek that runs through Acacia could provide some of that needed water, but the creek needed major restoration.  Pearl said photographing that process was one of the most interesting parts in documenting that restoration.

“In the fall of 2016 Biohabitats started doing major excavation of Euclid Creek.  Seeing the transition of that to a much more efficient flood plain and improved stream geography was fascinating to watch happen over time,” he said.

Golf courses are designed to evacuate water, which presented another challenge to the Metroparks.

“The main way that golf courses get water off of the property is a system of underground tiles. So we have actively gone in to break up those tiles or remove them completely to help water stay on the landscape,” explained the Metroparks manager of urban watersheds Jennifer Grieser. 

While doing their documentation, Pearl and his wife are often approached by people who ask what they are doing.  The comments they’ve heard about the restoration project have been positive.

“People are generally very pleased. Even during the construction period, people were grateful for what was going on.  They weren’t bothered by it because they could foresee into the future the time the fences would come down and the gates would open and they would have this wonderful area with new paths to traverse,” Pearl said.

Pearl and his wife see Acacia Reservation as an oasis in an area bustling with activity.

“I kind of look at this as our own miniature Central Park. It’s locked in on all sides by shopping centers, parking lots or residential homes. You pull into a parking lot, walk out of your car and you are stepping into this wonderful little 155 acre gem that’s right there for you to use,”  Pearl said.

Photographer Stuart Pearl and his wife Jeanne present, “Deconstruction of a Golf Course”  Friday evening at 7:30 at the Burroughs Nature Club of Willoughby.

Metroparks Jennifer Grieser  Stuart Pearl Jeanne Pearl  ideastream's Dan Polletta (standing)


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