Creating a Shallow Water Wetland


Parma Heights, Ohio. Jim Wohl has always loved nature and the outdoors. A long time ago his dream of becoming a Forester was set aside when his immediate life needs won out over the lack of available jobs in Forestry. Eight years ago, shortly after retiring, his discovery of Prairie Nursery added inspiration to his natural enthusiasm for the environment and he went to work creating his own backyard wildlife garden. There he experienced the transformation that native plants could bring to an environment.

Diving In. The desire to make a contribution to the health of the environment – that person who wanted to be a Forester – was still part of Jim’s calling. Sitting in the Valley Forge High School courtyard after an alumni meeting, Jim watched a mother duck and her babies drink from a plastic pool. “The ducks are already here,” he thought, “why not a wetland?” He shared the idea with the high school biology teacher, who said he’d always wanted to do that but didn’t know where to start. Jim knew.

There were times when he thought that the project would never happen, but he stuck with it. Tenacity is one of Jim’s stand-out qualities. A year after starting the project he finally got the ‘go-ahead’ from the school board. “I’m not a giver-upper, I just want to make things happen.”

Bringing it to the Community. Building the Valley Forge High wetland took the cooperation of many people – the School Board, Health Board, Sewer Association, plumbers & biologists. At the project’s beginning, a series of phone calls to the Cleveland Metro Parks led Jim to Terry Greathouse – at the time an assistant professor of biology at Cuyahoga Community College. Terry turned out to be an invaluable resource as a project consultant and contributor.

The shallow wetland was a labor of love and the project’s reach extended deep into the community. During construction Jim and Terry were on site everyday from 7am to 6pm. Valley Forge High School students helped when they could. Terry’s students from the Community College participated and gained points in their biology class. This was a big project and Jim wanted the world to know – plus, he needed funding to purchase plants. Local news sources reported on the project, and the Mayor and fire department also pitched in.

Today, the shallow wetland located in the high school courtyard is certified “Wildlife Habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation. The habitat area benefits ducks, 10 varieties of dragonflies, songbirds, hawks, herons, turtles, toads, frogs, butterflies, bees as well as the school’s students. The flora and fauna are the subject matter of inspired art class assignments; chemistry classes check water quality; and biology students study the plants and wetland ecosystems.

“These projects are not easy to make happen,” Jim says, “but anything is possible if you really want it to happen. Step up and let’s make a difference in this world of ours.”