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Effective Solutions for the Sand Run Corridor

Sand Run
Sand Run Ford

7/28/2015 - Akron, OH: Summit County’s Sand Run Metro Park in Akron, Ohio, has drawn visitors to its beauty since it was established in 1929. The park includes approximately 1,000 acres of steep hillsides and swift-flowing streams. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, portions of the park’s infrastructure, including Sand Run Parkway, were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Later in the 1970’s and 1980’s, substantial lengths of gabion walls were constructed to confine Sand Run and protect the park infrastructure.

Fast forward to present day, and many of the river training methods utilized in the past, including confining stream channels with retaining walls, are no longer desirable. To this end, EMH&T’s professional engineers and environmental scientists are preparing the Sand Run Parkway Improvements Study, which includes a hydraulic, geotechnical, and ecological evaluation of the stream corridor. In addition, the study includes capital improvement recommendations that are harmonious with the environmental mission of Summit Metro Parks to protect the existing infrastructure, while stabilizing stream banks and enhancing aquatic habitat. Upon implementation, the projects will reduce erosion and sedimentation in the watershed, and improve surface water quality. The work by EMH&T will be incorporated by Summit Metro Parks into the “Sand Run Metro Park – 2015 Master Plan” document prepared by Metro Parks staff.

“To meet the objectives of Summit Metro Parks,” said Senior Water Resources Engineer Shawn Arden, PE, CFM, LEED AP, CPESC, “we developed solutions that address both the erosion and stress on stream banks, as well as improve aquatic habitat.”

As part of the overall stream stabilization strategy, cross vanes were recommended throughout the study reach. The vanes consist of large stones strategically placed in the stream channel to focus the stream velocity through the center of the channel. This reduces the stress on the channel banks, and also creates a designed scour hole downstream of the vane for aquatic habitat. “Early on in the project, we agreed with Metro Parks staff to minimize the use of structural stabilization techniques, such as retaining walls, on this project,” added Arden. This decision allowed EMH&T to focus on considering how softer techniques could be implemented to achieve the project goals. “Where bank stabilization with rock was warranted, we incorporated live stakes into the design to provide additional riparian vegetation.”

EMH&T performed a Level II geomorphic assessment to understand the existing channel geometry for both stable and impaired reaches of the study area. EMH&T’s trained stream geomorphologists measured channel characteristics related to both flow and morphology (structure). The results of the analysis included an estimate of stable channel parameters for application in the design of the stabilization activities.

Supporting the geomorphic analysis was the development of hydrologic and hydraulic modeling to estimate streamflow characteristics for Sand Run and its tributaries within the study area. The results of EMH&T’s hydrologic and hydraulic modeling were used to understand stream flow conditions for design of the stabilization recommendations. EMH&T also analyzed the conveyance capacity of 16 culverts within the park. Recommendations were provided to improve culvert conveyance capacity to meet current design standards.

A key component of the stream study, Summit Metro Parks desired a recommendation to improve aquatic organism passage (AOP) along the Sand Run stream. Sand Run joins the Cuyahoga River immediately downstream of the park; however, fish cannot migrate upstream on Sand Run due to three vertical drops along the Sand Run streambed. One of these grade breaks is immediately downstream of the low water crossing (ford) on Sand Run Parkway, which is a unique feature of the park. EMH&T evaluated numerous alternatives to improve AOP for the three locations, including modifications to the stream profile, implementation of fish ladders, implementation of diversion pipes and channels, and structural modifications to the Sand Run Parkway ford.

EMH&T is currently completing the Sand Run Parkway Improvements Study, with a scheduled final deliverable in spring 2015. Summit Metro Parks is anticipated to construct the recommended improvements in the upcoming years.

Need a hydrologic or hydraulic consultation for your community? Contact Shawn Arden at 614.775.4210 or by email at

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