Starting in March of 2022, 1,500 feet of Doan Brook and over 5 acres of surrounding land was restored at Sowkinski Park. The park is located in the lower watershed in Rockefeller Park and the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. The area is open for the public to enjoy, and sits right behind the Latvian Cultural Garden. 

There was a large push for local engagement to get input and support from the local community for this project. By engaging local residents in the restoration, the hope was to create an area that is ecological beneficial, but also a place that the community can visit and use. We accomplished this engagement using “hikeshops” in partnership with Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, University Circle Inc., and the Famicos Organization. These “hikeshops” were meetings on site to learn about the cultural and ecological importance of Sowkiniski Park in its location in the Cultural Gardens and along the Doan Brook.

This project was completed through the combined efforts of local residents in the Sowinski neighborhood, University Circle Inc, Famicos Organization, Doan Brook Watershed Partnership, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEOSRD), City of Cleveland Water Pollution Control , City of Cleveland Capital Projects, City of Cleveland Parks and Recreation, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Cleveland Cultural Gardens, and Cleveland Metroparks. NEOSRD, Ohio EPA and United States EPA provided the funding for this project.

Park restoration in progress. February 24, 2023

Sandstone walls currently line much of the lower Doan Brook as it cuts through the Cultural Gardens. At Sowinski Park, these walls were lowered so that they were even with the new floodplain. Continuing erosion of the sandstone walls is a major concern for much of the brook in Rockefeller Park. The walls are collapsing in many areas due to repeated flooding and increased flow rates that follow after heavy rainfall. With the frequency of heavy storms increasing, it was important to create a solution that will reduce the flooding and erosion of these walls. A new path for the river was carved with some curves to allow for a more natural flow that slows down the speed of the water. This gives plants time to filter and clean the water as it flows, allows for some of the water to soak into the ground, and will reduce the speed to prevent the erosion of the channel’s walls downstream. This increases the water quality, providing a better habitat for the fish, crustaceans, insects, and birds that call Doan Brook home. 

Restoration site after 1 year, May 22nd, 2024

A tiered floodplain was created to create different levels for flooding. The lower floodplain allows the river to flood during heavy rain while not harming the infrastructure surrounding it or downstream. Higher levels accommodate the increasing pattern of larger storms. This area was designed to hold water as the brook floods, and will prevent the overflow of the walls lower in the brook. Having different levels in the floodplain allows the ecosystem to handle different amounts of rain and severity of storms. Native plants, shrubs, and trees planted in and around the floodplain to restore habitat along the brook. These plants filter the water and pollutants that collect from upstream, especially since the area around Sowinski Park has many impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots, and roofs. The new plants also will hold the riverbank in place with their root systems, reducing the amount of erosion at the site. New trees and plants will continue to be planted along the restored area as a part of ensuring the restoration is successful.