Grow with the FLOW


One of the many ways we are aiming to enhance the health of the Olentangy Watershed is through campaigning for the planting of trees. Our goal is to partner with the Olentangy Watershed community and have everyone planting and caring for trees. We will do this by providing education, ensuring you live in the Olentangy Watershed, and offering free native trees and shrubs. Please go to the registration page by clicking here or by clicking “Grow with the FLOW” above. Registration is open through October 20th.


An great option for Columbus Residents living in Columbus is Branch Out’s Tree Give away on September 30th! Check out the link below!

Site Plan for Pollinators

Rusty Patched Bumblebee by Johanna James-Heinz.

We’ve heard it in the news, on social media, and through word of mouth that pollinator species have taken a hit. The Rusty Patched Bumblebee is on the endangered species list and many other bee populations are also in decline. Milkweed is wanted for monarchs and we can all do a little something to help out our pollinating friends. However, efforts on private property to incorporate pollinating species set off a few red alarms for county code inspectors. They are just doing their job when they chop down your beautifully planted pollinator patch and leave you bee-less and with a bill. This is because some species are seen as a fire hazard or are noted as “noxious weeds.” The city is changing their outlook on this code and is now acknowledging the use of pollinators as a horticultural improvement to your property. They do however, want to see that your garden is carefully planned. A site plan will help convince officers that the patch they see as “weeds” is actually an intentionally planted, cultivated, and cared for pollinator garden.

What Is It: A site plan is a document that details improvement specifications through drawing. It is a graphic representation of the buildings, parking, drives, landscaping, etc. of a development project. In terms of pollinator gardens, it should be detailed with specifications such as species and size. The links below will give you the tools to build your own personal site plan and cater it to your specific garden and its needs. If you receive a complaint that your garden is taller than 12 inches, you should call the Code Enforcement Division at 614-645-2202 and explain that your garden is intentionally cultivated and that you have a site plan.

Site Plan Instructions

Site Plan Building Tool

New Study on Fish and Habitat Quality on Olentangy River and Tributaries

Locations for fish sampling and habitat quality evaluation.

Locations sampled for the 2016 Olentangy River & Tributaries Fish & Habitat


A recent study of the Olentangy River and two tributaries in Delaware County finds the river mainstem meeting biological criteria for fish communities, but the two tributaries falling short.  The study, conducted by Mark Dilley of MAD Scientist Associates in October 2016, reports that the stream health measures for the mainstem have remained stable relative to sampling conducted in 2003 by Ohio EPA at locations upstream and downstream of the study site.

The consistent fish community scores for the mainstem site may be the result of positive water quality and habitat improvements off-setting potentially adverse effects of increasing rates of development in this region of Delaware County, according to Dilley. The positive water quality improvements Dilley identifies include the recent removal of two low-head dams in the area, riparian setbacks that were put into effect, and improved sediment and erosion control practices at construction sites.

Dilley, a professional wetland scientist and certified senior ecologist, worked with Laura Fay and Marci Bird of Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW) to develop the study plan.  The sampling was conducted in early October by Dilley, Aaron Laver and Jacob Zink of MAD Scientist Associates, and Joe Bevan a FLOW volunteer.  Dilley has provided FLOW with the results and findings to help FLOW track water quality trends in the Olentangy River and its tributaries, and to better manage and protect these areas.

The study’s objective was to evaluate the current health of stream habitat within segments of the Olentangy River tributaries and mainstem. Stream health was determined by surveying the fish community using Ohio EPA sampling methodologies, and scoring the results using Ohio EPA’s Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) and Modified Index of Well-Being (MIwb; wading sites only).  The condition of the stream and riparian habitat at the sampling sites was surveyed using the metrics of the Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (QHEI). The use by Dilley of the same sampling and evaluation methods used by Ohio EPA, allows for direct comparison with past sampling and future stream studies conducted by Ohio EPA.  Tables 2 and 3 in the report compare Dilley’s results with Ohio EPA’s 2003 results for nearby mainstem sites, as well as a comparison with other tributaries.  We at FLOW appreciate that this study gives us a much needed glimpse at the current conditions in the watershed.  


Results of 2016 Sampling for Fish Communities and Habitat Quality
Stream Name River Mile QHEI IBI/(Miwb)
Olentangy River

Sample Reach 1

22.9 72.25 44 (7.7)


Sample Reach 2

0.2 61.25 26


Sample Reach 3

0.0 44.25 38
* MIwb only applicable to mainstem (wading) site

An IBI score of 40 is needed to meet biological criteria for a wading stream, that is designated warm water habitat.   This table was excerpted from Table 2, 2016 Olentangy River & Tributaries Fish & Habitat Surveys,  Dilley.  


Sunny 95 Adopt-a-Pond Success!

~Written by Bob Fitchko

img_4780It was mid-October 2016 and a light fog was giving way to a crisp, clear autumn morning at the Sunny 95 Park and Pond in Upper Arlington, Ohio.   The daybreak was welcomed by a transient contingent of neighbors, joggers and dog-walkers.   A flock of Mallards casually cruised the pond.  A frisky canine viewed the waterfowl intruders.   The ducks and the furry, four-footer had a vocal exchange on the legal, though non-binding, water rights to the pond.  The debate was ruled a draw.  No harm, no “fowl”.   The avian delegation flew off; the domesticated mammal strutted away with its owner.  A representative snapshot of activity surrounding a local pond in the lower Olentangy watershed.    All creatures, large and small, human and not, can enjoy and benefit from a healthy aquatic environment.

The Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW) has grant funding (designated the Adopt-A-Pond program) thanks to a generous grant from LUSH Cosmetics. This program will help to improve the habitat and aesthetics of local ponds through the planting of native (soil stabilizing) plants.   Multiple benefits of planting native vegetation include:  increase the health of the Olentangy watershed, increase the variety of plants and birds around the pond, support native pollinators, provide food and habitat for butterflies and moths, provide more color and blooms, and reduce bank erosion and the rate of pond sediment fill.

img_3061 The Sunny 95 Pond is located in the lower Olentangy watershed and was selected as a site to be included in FLOWs Adopt-A-Pond Grant program.  The pond is a one-third acre storm water retention pond centrally located within the 15-acre Sunny 95 Park development.  The park is located at the intersection of Windham Road and Carriage Hill Lane in Upper Arlington (UA).   The park is a result of a decade-past UA master development plan resulting in the demolition of Langston Park and construction of multiple family-oriented facilities at the site.  Completion of the new park area was opened to the public in 2010.

In early fall 2016, Laura Fay, FLOW Science Committee Chairman, and Steve Cothrel, Superintendent of Parks & Forestry, Parks and Recreation Department, The City of Upper Arlington, met on-site at Sunny 95 Park to discuss possible water quality enhancements to the Sunny 95 Pond.  The pond shoreline currently had a variety of plants and tall ornamental grasses around its banks.    However, a central fountain and resulting small wave action causes noticeable scouring and bank erosion.   Scouring is especially noted along the eastern edge of the pond, primarily due to the prevailing westerly-southwesterly winds common in central Ohio.  In addition, professional services for algae control and periodic dredging is part of planned maintenance for the pond in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

img_2492Mutual agreement was made by Laura and Steve to add an additional variety of native aquatic plants to the pond shoreline and to plant several native trees just beyond the pond landscape.  Lisa Metcalf, Horticulturist, Parks & Forestry, Parks and Recreation Department, The City of Upper Arlington, coordinated the selection and planting of plants and trees.

img_5521In mid-October, a trio of FLOW members and two staffers from The City of Upper Arlington, Parks & Forestry, Parks and Recreation Department, gathered at the Sunny 95 Pond to plant a variety of indigenous aquatic plants. Twenty-six native flora were selected and delivered on site by Gale Martin, Natives in Harmony, Marango, Ohio.  The list of botanicals included:

Asclepias incarnata (red/swamp milkweed), Eupatoriadelphius maculates (spotted joe pye), Hibiscus mosheutos (crimson-eyed rose mallow), Mimulus ringens (monkey flower), and Cephalanthus occidentalis (Buttonbush).   With shovels in hand, the new vegetation was planted at four different locations around the pond shoreline.


Danielle and Sarah planting pond plants


Bob delivering plants to Lisa for planting

img_2596In late-October, FLOW and UA Parks and Recreation Department staff met again.  This time the group convened to add several trees to the park landscape just southwest of Sunny 95 Pond.   Three native trees were selected from Willoway Nurseries (aka Premier Plant Solutions):   Betula nigra (river birch), Quercus bicolor (swamp white oak), and Quercus rubra (northernred oak).  The two oaks had a sturdy 3-4 inch caliper trunk thickness.   The river birch exhibited multiple 1-2 inch trunks from its base root ball.   The trio of trees was 12-15 feet in height.   With strong mind and body, holes were dug, tree root balls set in place, and surrounding rings of mulch spread.  As the trees flourish and grow, they should provide additional shade to the pond.

img_2616                Special thanks to FLOW members Laura, Danielle, Bob and UA Parks & Forestry, Parks and Recreation Department personnel Lisa, Sarah, Scott, Veronica, and Jim.   All contributed mightily in the joint effort to support FLOWs Adopt-A-Pond project and planting of the aquatics and trees at the Sunny 95 Pond.

To date, the FLOW Adopt-A-Pond grant program has enhanced water quality and public awareness for multiple ponds in the lower Olentangy watershed.  The Sunny 95 Pond project is one of the latest.  FLOW has limited additional funding for this program and has recently reached out to local pond owners.  The non-profit is seeking several additional participants interested in partnering with FLOW to add nature’s beauty and its benefits to their aquatic ecosystems.

Trees and Pond Plants making a difference at Sunny 95 Pond in Upper Arlington

Trees and Pond Plants making a difference at Sunny 95 Pond in Upper Arlington



The Enemy Among Us

This summer, Ohio residents will be living among the types of mosquitos that spread Zika and West Nile viruses.
Zika has been linked to serious birth defects. It is not known whether Zika will arrive in Ohio this year, although the mosquitos that spread it are expected to be here.
West Nile often has mild or no symptoms, but it can cause neurological damage in some individuals.
You can conduct your war against these unwelcome attackers by denying them the standing water they need to reproduce. This is by far the most effective way to reduce the number of mosquitos.

Rain Barrels

If you live in the City of Columbus and got a rain barrel through Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District’s GreenSpot program, you can get free rain barrel water treatment through Columbus. You should be contacted within a few weeks and offered 180-day treatment for your rain barrel. If you are not contacted, you can check your eligibility by calling 614-645-6153 or emailing
You can also buy Mosquito Dunks, Mosquito Bits, or similar products that will interrupt the mosquito life cycle. These are harmless naturally-occurring bacteria.
In the absence of these controls, use up the water in your rain barrel at least once a week. It takes 7-10 days for the eggs to become mature mosquitos.

Backyard Ponds
You have a couple of options for your pond:
• Koi are too large to eat mosquito larvae, but goldfish and guppies will do the job and will get along well with your other fish.
• Mosquitos require shallow or still water, so consider adding a waterfall or fountain.
• Use Mosquito Dunks, Mosquito Bits, or similar products.
Other Containers
Empty the following at least once a week:
• birdbaths
• vases
• pet water bowls
• flowerpot saucers
• discarded tires
• buckets
• pool covers
• birdbaths
• trash cans

Ackerman Ponds Transformation

ackermanpondThe Ackerman Ponds show how quickly a goose-infested area can be turned into a destination for butterflies and honey bees. Constructed in 2010-2011, the two grass and stone ponds were part of the storm water facilities for the Ohio State University’s Woody Hayes Athletic Complex. The stone slows the storm water flow, prevents erosion, and encourages particles to settle out of the water.

Though designed to be dry between rains, the Ackerman Ponds were often full of water due to a persistent leak from an adjacent water main. This submerged and distressed the lawn grasses and became a nesting area for Canada geese. In addition to being a nuisance, Canada geese droppings degraded the retained water. Once the water main was fixed, the water receded and the geese left, but the distressed vegetation had to be addressed.

In 2014, volunteers from Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW) and WOSU planted native forbs, grasses, two hackberry trees and one burr oak tree. Ohio State Facilities Operations and Development – Landscape Services planted an additional dozen native trees from the School of Forestry’s greenhouse. These trees included oak, locust, cherry and hickory, among others.

After one year, the native foliage has grown at an impressive rate. In addition, the native perennial flowers have already begun to attract butterflies and honey bees. These ponds continue to provide stormwater retention, and the plants help filter the stormwater and provide habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

Thanks to Lush Cosmetics for funding for this exciting project.

What is a Watershed? How can we Monitor its Health?

Public Meeting
Location: Veritas Community Church
345 E. 2nd Ave., Columbus
When: 7:15-8:30pm, April 4, 2016

During this meeting, you will learn what a watershed is, how they function and how we, the people, can affect the health of a watershed. We will also introduce FLOW’s Water Steward Program, which we are carrying out with the support of partners at Ohio Water Resources Center and the Sierra Club. We will learn about the different components of the program including the water chemistry testing and macroinvertebtrate sampling that our volunteers will perform.

If you are participating in the Water Steward Training Program, this course is optional. If you are not interested in macroinvertebrate sampling, this meeting and training is not required. This meeting will provide insight into the kind of time commitment that will be required of you and your team (1-2 hours, 3 times per year), an overview of the sampling and identification process, and how all the data will be compiled and used at FLOW.

If you wish to do Macroinvertebrate Sampling and are unable to attend this meeting, please let us know and we will send you information regarding the in-field training.

FLOW’s Day at Lucky’s Market Thursday (3/31)

FLOW Market Day at Lucky's Market (3/31/2016)

FLOW Day at Lucky’s is this Thursday (March 31)!

Make your shopping list and don’t forget to add the trees!

Lucky’s Market has chosen to support the health of the Olentangy Watershed and all its inhabitants and so can you!
All that you have to do to help is go grocery shopping this week at Lucky’s on Thursday, March 31.
Lucky’s will donate 10% to FLOW and we will use those funds to buy trees to plant right here in your watershed. This has got to be the easiest way for you and your family to plant a tree this spring season!
See you at Lucky’s on Thursday!

FLOW’s Water Steward Program

FLOW’s Water Steward Program kicks off March 22.

FLOW is working with the Ohio Water Resources Center and the Sierra Club to create an active group of Water Stewards in the Lower Olentangy Watershed. These stewards are dedicated to a sustained hands-on effort to quantify the health of our stream waters through the monitoring and reporting of chemical and macroinvertebrate indicators in several of its tributaries.

In order to be a part of the FLOW Water Steward Program you must be trained in WARN (Water Alert Report Training) and either the Water Sentinel (water chemistry) or the macroinvertebrate sampling methods (or in all three areas). After completing the required trainings, the Water Stewards will be grouped with one or more persons and assigned a sampling site close to their chosen geographical area (when possible) which the team will then sample in the spring, summer and fall. If this kind of stewardship is something that you would be interested in participating in please join us for the following training sessions.

Warn Training
Where: OSU Wetlands
The Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park
352 Dodridge St., Columbus
When: March 22, 7:00

Details: WARN Training is required to be a water steward. However, it is likely that we will hold another training session sometime in late spring. Please let us know if you are interested but unable to attend.

Water Sentinel Training
Where: OSU Wetlands
The Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park
352 Dodridge St., Columbus
When: March 29, 7:00

Details: Water Sentinel Training will enable you to test the chemical components in the water. This training is optional and if you choose not to do this training, we will try to pair you with someone that has had this training. You may try to take this training at a later date. Data collected from this training will be used by both FLOW and the Sierra Club to track stream health. Supplies will be provided for each team.

Program Overview Meeting and Introduction to Macroinvertebrate Sampling Methods
Where: Veritas Community Church
345 E. 2nd Ave., Columbus
When: 7:15-8:30pm, April 4, 2016

This course is optional. If you are not interested in macroinvertebrate sampling, this meeting and training is not required.

This meeting will provide insight into the kind of time commitment that will be required of you and your team (1-2 hours, 3 times per year), an overview of the sampling and identification process, and how all the data will be compiled and used at FLOW. If you wish to do Macroinvertebrate Sampling and are unable to attend this meeting, please let us know and we will send you information regarding the in-field training.

Hands on Field Training for Macroinvertebrate Sampling, Equipment Dispersal and Site Assignments
Where: Adena Brook, Whetstone Park, Clintonville
When: 1:30-3:30pm, May 1, 2016

During this event, FLOW Water Steward Trainers will walk you through an actual macro invertebrate sampling process and work with you to identify the various critters that you might find at your own site. You must have attended WARN training prior to attending this event unless other arrangements have been made with FLOW for future training events.

First Sampling with a FLOW Water Steward Trainer
You will each have an assigned site that you will visit with your team three times every year. This first visit you will be accompanied by a FLOW Water Steward Trainer. The trainer will show you your access points and walk you through the process so that you have the confidence you will need to go out on your own in the summer and fall.
Locations and dates to be determined based on team and trainer location and availability.
As a Water Steward
Once you have done your chemical and macroinvertebrate sampling, you will provide your results to FLOW so that they can be compiled into both an overall annual report as well as be used to track your specific location over time. You and your team will visit your site two more times this year. We will track the results of the sampling and share these with you on our website and hold a year end meeting so you and your fellow stewards get a chance to meet and share stories of success and fun in the streams!
If you are interested in becoming a FLOW Water Steward and we look forward to seeing you and guiding you through this opportunity to work first-hand to improve the quality of our streams.