May 21 walking tour explores 'deep history' of Quilliams Creek

William Quilliams house (1867) is a Cleveland Heights landmark. Photo courtesy: Dave Lawrence.

How does a neighborhood landscape come to be? What does nature provide? Can humans live in ways that honor the gift?

Rocks and Waters walking tours seek to answer such questions by visiting local stream courses. This year, the series explores the people and places of Quilliams Creek, in Cleveland Heights’s Noble Neighborhood. A May 21 Nine Mile Creek tour is part of Cleveland Heights’s Preservation Month activities. [For more information and to register, see article "CH celebrates Preservation Month in May." 

How does the Quilliams Creek walking tour relate to issues of environmental health and preservation?

In 1988, the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern (AOC) was founded to manage the health of Cleveland’s small watersheds. Early management plans centered around Doan Brook and Euclid Creek. Recently, support has come to Dugway Brook and Nine Mile Creek. Quilliams Creek is a Nine Mile tributary.

The immediate environmental issue is polluted stormwater. Pavement and other impervious surfaces inhibit the earth’s ability to infiltrate rainfall. Runoff thus flows into storm sewers. Before entering these systems, waste from roads and parking lots is absorbed. The polluted mixture must be treated before it is sent to Lake Erie.

With green infrastructure, stormwater can be infiltrated in place, before it picks up pollutants. The AOC promotes solutions made possible as a city shrinks and former greenspace reemerges. 

Rocks and Waters looks for the elemental forces giving rise to natural landforms, and the intersection of natural and human actions that make places special. Stated simply, the walks explore the deep history of small-scale Heights landscapes.

Deep history begins with the ancient geology that shaped our Portage Escarpment landforms. These included bedrock deposition, tectonic uplift and glaciation. Locally, natural forces produced the bluestone terrace, a uniquely Heights landform.

The human role in landscape change began quite early. In June 1797, the Connecticut Land Co. laid down a survey line that, by chance, skirted the deep Quilliams ravine. Early settlers used it as the longest north-south track amidst crosscutting natural ravines. Two centuries later, Quilliams Road still defines municipal boundaries, residential neighborhoods and daily commutes.

Two other local terrace constructions are historically significant. The William Quilliams house (1867) is a Cleveland Heights landmark, and Nela Park (1911) is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Rocks and Waters seeks the long perspective on the evolving Heights landscape. Can we continue to identify with treasured landmarks? Can local streams become ecological assets? Can urban planning serve to rebalance, more equitably, the life-sustaining needs of humans and nature?

May 21 Quilliams Creek tour participants will have an opportunity to explore the landscape at ground level, and help forge collaborative insights upon which Heights neighborhoods can redevelop green space and preserve their heritage.

Roy Larick

Roy Larick, Ph.D., is the founder of Bluestone Heights, which advocates for Greater Cleveland places and their cultural ecologies. 

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Volume 9, Issue 5, Posted 7:05 PM, 04.29.2016