Community Involvement

By becoming a “friend” of the Darby, you will be able to take pride in the efforts underway to protect the Big Darby Watershed. Several organizations sponsor volunteer programs for river clean ups, tree plantings, and other conservation activities.

In addition, consider attending any zoning or related hearings that may have an impact on the water quality or wildlife in the Big Darby watershed. By getting personally involved in the planning stages, you can help limit the adverse effects of unrestricted development along the streams.


With the help of volunteers, The Nature Conservancy and other conservation organizations perform a variety of activities to promote the protection and responsible stewardship of the Darby watershed.

Volunteering is an excellent opportunity to work outdoors with others while learning about rare plants and animals and help preserve some of the region’s most beautiful natural communities.

For more information contact:

The Nature Conservancy
6375 Riverside Drive, Suite 50
Dublin, Ohio 43017
For volunteer information, visit
Or contact Julie Boreman at 614-717-2770

Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks
1069 West Main Street
Westerville, Ohio 43081-1181

Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Division of Natural Areas and Preserves
Scenic Rivers Program


The Darby Book

One of the many accomplishments of the Darby Partners was the creation and distribution of The Darby Book, A Guide for Residents of the Darby Creek Watershed. Nearly 10,000 copies of this award-winning publication have been distributed to residents in the watershed.

The guide helps homeowners join the protection effort by providing information on why the Darby Creek watershed is an important natural resource and deserving of our best care. Topics include educational and recreational opportunities for families, citizen action participation, lawn care, erosion control, septic system maintenance, and handling of hazardous waste.

Note: Left-click on the above image to view The Darby Book using Acrobat ® Reader. Or right-click the image and “Save Target As” or “Save Link As” to download the pdf file to your computer.

Public Policy

The Darby Watershed is divided into 27 township jurisdictions and 6 counties, with just as many different approaches to land use zoning. While a few counties have begun to implement protection zoning for the streams, most of the land within 1,000 feet of the streams and tributaries is still under little or no protective legislation.
Because protective zoning is probably the strongest and most comprehensive method of protection in the watershed, township trustees, county officials, regional planners and developers are working together to discuss comprehensive zoning, regional stormwater districting, and best practices for land use.

Darby Watershed Community Land Use Planning

Many opportunities exist for private citizens, corporations, government agencies, and other groups to work together to adopt strategies to promote sustainable development and protect the unique natural resources of the Darby Creek Watershed. Here are examples of strategies that have been adopted by several communities in the Darby Watershed to specifically protect the Big and Little Darby Creeks:
Union County Comprehensive Plan 1/25/99 recognizes the Darby Creek system as a local, state and national resource unmatched in the Midwest. The plan recommends several protection strategies for the Darby Watershed including: 0.2 dwelling units per acre gross density limitation; the development of strategies designed to strengthen county and municipal erosion and sedimentation controls and stormwater regulations in order to reduce impacts to the streams; and the preservation of the 100 year floodplain. In addition, specific recommendations are included to develop methods to create streamside buffers and other methods to protect wetlands, prairie remnants and forests. Prime agricultural lands are also encouraged to be conserved.

Madison County Comprehensive Plan 2/2000 recognizes Big Darby Creek as a vital resource to the County. Environmental objectives of the plan include improving the water quality of Madison County’s waterways. Environmental policies include establishing a buffer area for conservation purposes adjacent to the Big and Little Darby as well as a filter strip adjacent to all tributaries. Effective countywide erosion and sedimentation control measures are recommended. The plan recommends preservation of prime agricultural lands and recommends development be confined to utility service areas. One of the main assumptions of the plan is to protect natural resources such as streams, wooded areas, and environmentally sensitive lands.

Franklin County’s Brown, Prairie, and Pleasant Townships and Pickaway County’s Darby and Jackson Townships have adopted an overlay zoning district on lands adjacent to the Big and Little Darby Creeks. The districts are designed to preserve critical streamside natural resources and habitat.

The City of Columbus 1993 Comprehensive Plan incorporated an Environmental Conservation District for the western edge of the planning area, specifically within the Darby Watershed. The District, in part, recommends protection of the district from inappropriate uses, discourages development within the district, and recommends cooperation with current and future efforts to preserve the environmental quality of the Big Darby Watershed.

The Brown Township Comprehensive Plan 1998 Update adopted Columbus’s Environmental Conservation District as currently set forth for the Darby Watershed. The update recommends against any proposals that encourage development at an urban scale in the Environmental Conservation District area not in conformance with the policies and recommendations of the Brown Township Comprehensive Plan and Columbus’s Environmental Conservation District.

Franklin County Greenways Plan prepared by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission recognizes the Darbys as one of the healthiest aquatic systems of its size in the Midwest and is ranked among the top five warm freshwater habitats in the region by the Ohio EPA.

Stormwater Management

Like many watersheds in the nation, the Darby is experiencing growing pains. Economic expansion of the Central Ohio region, coupled with the

beauty of the Darby and the current rural nature of the watershed make it ripe for development. Concerned about the Darby’s future and the potential impact of increased stormwater runoff, a diverse group of stakeholders came together, formed the Darby Creek Watershed Task Force (Task Force) and developed the Darby Creek Watershed Strategies and Standards for New Development project.

The goal of the project is to seek ways to reduce the impact of new development on the watershed using environmentally sensitive, economically feasible development techniques and stormwater management strategies.

Achieving these goals required the task force to review current practices; evaluate the current status of development; and reach consensus on principles for new development. Through the concerted efforts of Task Force members working in a collaborative environment with Fuller, Mossbarger Scott and May Engineers, Inc. (FMSM) and The Center for Watershed Protection (CWP), 22 model development principles have been created. These 22 principles are founded on pioneering, nationwide efforts completed by the CWP and customized to meet local conditions.

The Darby Creek Model Development Principles can be divided into three broad categories:

• Residential Streets and Parking Lots (9 principles)
• Lot Development (6 principles)
• Conservation of Natural Areas (7 principles)

Residential streets and parking lots, or habitat for cars, can account for as much as 65 percent of the impervious areas (hard surfaces like roads, rooftops and parking lots) created by new development. The nine development principles related to streets and parking lots provide for ways to reduce the impervious area associated with habitat for cars, thereby reducing the potential impact of stormwater runoff. The six principles for lot development help reduce impervious area by modifying the shape, size and layout of residential lots.
By shifting from conventional subdivision design to a more economical and environmentally sensitive open space design concept, significant reductions in stormwater quantity and improvements in stormwater quality can be achieved. The final seven principles provide avenues for conserving and managing natural areas at the development site. By offering flexibility and incentives to developers, the conservation of
natural areas can be integrated into open space designs and assist in creating conomically viable, environmentally sensitive projects.

In addition to reaching consensus on the 22 development principles, the Task Force collectively selected six principles for short-term implementation. The six principles identified by the Task Force as high priority are:

Principle 10; Open Space Development – Advocate open space development that incorporates smaller lot sizes to minimize total impervious area, reduce total construction costs, conserve natural areas, provide community recreational space, and promote watershed protection

Principle 16; Perennial Stream Buffer – Create a variable width, naturally vegetated buffer system along all perennial streams that also encompasses critical environmental features such as the 100- year floodplain, steep slopes, and freshwater wetlands

Principle 18; Clearing and Grading – Clearing and grading of forests and native vegetation at a site should be limited to the minimum amount needed to build lots, allow access, and provide
fire protection. A fixed portion of any community open space should be managed as protected green space in a consolidated manner.

Principle 20; Conservation – Incentives and flexibility in the form of density compensation, buffer averaging, property tax reduction, stormwater credits, and by-right open space development should be encouraged to promote conservation of stream buffers, forests,
meadows, and other areas of environmental value. Off-site mitigation for open space, stormwater management and forest resources (excluding riparian buffers) within the same watershed
should also be encouraged.

Principle 21; Manage Stormwater – New development should not discharge unmanaged stormwater.

Principle 22; Maintain Stream Integrity – Enclosing, straightening, and relocating streams should be discouraged during all new development.

The purpose of the Darby Creek Watershed Strategies and Standards for New Development Project (Darby Creek Project) was to create a guidance document that can aid local officials in creating responsible new development. In the context of the project, responsible development was defined as development that is planned, designed, constructed and maintained in a manner that reduces, to the degree practical, the negative impacts of development on the Darby Creek.

Source: “The Darby Creek Watershed Stormwater Strategies and Standards for New Development were developed by Fuller, Mossbarger, Scott and May Engineers Inc in conjunction with the Center for Watershed Protection and the Darby Watershed Task Force.”