The new and improved Clover Groff Ditch in Latham Park appears to be working as intended, according to those who helped restore it.

The new and improved Clover Groff Ditch in Latham Park appears to be working as intended, according to those who helped restore it.

"It looked great upon completion," said Kyle Wilson, natural resource conservationist for Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District, which administers the stream's conservation easement at Latham Park. "That's one of the good things about that style of restoration - when construction is completed and you walk away, you have a functioning system."

Last weekend, contractor Oxbow River and Stream Restoration Inc. gave a walking tour of the ditch at Latham Park. Along this section, the Clover Groff was restored to what it may have been like before it was deepened and straightened in the 1930s. Ditching the stream improved drainage for agricultural production, but it also removed the Clover Groff from its floodplain, impaired its ability to process sediment and pollutants, and affected its water quality.

"It wasn't a wildlife habitat any more," said Franklin Soil and Water spokeswoman Mary Ann Brouillette. "It carried a lot of sediment. The bottom was covered in silt."

The Clover Groff is a tributary to Big Darby Creek, a state and national scenic river that is considered a "Last Great Place" by the Nature Conservancy.

The natural channel design, completed late last year, is meant to mimic a natural stream. The stream was made shallower, meanders or bends were built into the stream, gravel and rock of various sizes were placed to form riffles and pools, and native plants were planted in the flood plain. The improvements helped make the water more oxygenated so that it burbles as it flows.

"It's very pretty," Brouillette said. "The riffles and pools looked good, the water was clearer than I had seen it the time before."

Franklin Soil and Water officials say the restoration will reduce flooding and help to remove the Clover Groff from the Ohio EPA's list of impaired streams. Testing has shown that fish, mussels and aquatic insects are coming back in the Clover Groff.

"The habitat scores improved right away. The idea is you build it, and they'll come, which marks the beginning of water quality improvement," said Dan Binder, executive director of The River Institute. Binder worked with Oxbow to submit the restoration grant application to Ohio EPA, which funded 60 percent of the project.

Binder said the Clover Groff restoration provides a longer stream length that removes contaminants, "so then when it meets up with Hellbranch Creek and then the Darby, it's better all the way around. Not only does it provide that nursery for the other species, but it's a better water source to add to the Darby."

Wilson said the Ohio Deparment of Natural Resources, the city of Columbus and the Franklin County Engineer's Office have been working on other parts of the Clover Groff, including just upstream from Latham Park.

"Everybody has the same goal of improving water quality for tributaries of the Darby," Wilson said.

Brouillette called the restoration project a partnership with the city of Hilliard, which owns Latham Park.

"There was a lot of cooperation," Binder said. "Hilliard was excited about the project. They've got a nice conservation park at Latham. It was really the perfect place. You don't often get a stream that needs help, and then the necessary helping partners to get it done."