Why Ox Creek?

Ox Creek is a crucial part of a Watershed.

No matter where you live, we all live in a watershed.

But what is it and what is its place in our community?

A Watershed is an area of land that drains rain water or snow into one location such as a stream, lake or wetland. These water bodies supply our drinking water, water for agriculture and manufacturing, offer opportunities for recreation (canoeing and fishing, anyone?) and provide habitat to numerous plants and animals. Unfortunately various forms of pollution, including runoff and erosion, can interfere with the health of the watershed. Therefore, it is important to protect the quality of our watershed.

Why do we need healthy Watersheds?

Watersheds sustain life, in more ways than one. According to the EPA, more than $450 billion in foods, fiber, manufactured goods and tourism depend on clean, healthy watersheds.

Urban Development and Farming Practices impact the Ox Creek Watershed with far reaching consequences.

The Numbers

8,600 acres (13 sq miles)

Existing Wetlands: 403 acres

Wetland Acres Lost 72%

Sediment Retention Loss 85%

Floodwater Mitigation Loss 78%

We have the potential to restore 1,060 acres wetlands

Treating the stormwater runoff from 30 acres will result in annual pollutant reductions of:

  • 48,000 lbs sediment
  • 345 lbs nitrogen
  • 87 lbs Phosporus


  • Improved Aesthetics
  • Placemaking Opportunity
  • Attract Development
  • Encourage Investment

Water Quality Issues

Stormwater volume and contaminant + sediment run-off degrades the habitat and flows to other water sources.



Stormwater is water from rain or melting snow. It flows from rooftops, over paved streets, sidewalks and parking lots, across bare soil, and through lawns and storm drains. High volumes overwhelm the capacity of the creek and cause flashy flows.

Stormwater gushing from pipe into river



Runoff collects and transports soil, trace heavy metals, salt, oil and grease, litter and other pollutants. This water drains directly into Ox Creek without receiving treatment at sewage plants. In Rural areas fertilizers and pesticides are washed into the creek.

Parking lot



The EPA lists sediment as the most common pollutant in rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs. Sediment deposits in creeks can alter the flow of water and reduce water depth, which makes navigation and recreational use more difficult.

Creek flowing



Murky water prevents natural vegetation from growing in water and prevents animals from seeing food. Sediment in stream beds disrupts the natural food chain by destroying the habitat where the smallest stream organisms live and causing massive declines in fish populations.


What Areas Does the Watershed Include?

Ox Creek Watershed is in the far west part of the larger St. Joseph River Watershed. Ox Creek flows into the Paw Paw River, then to the St. Joseph River, and out to Lake Michigan.

Map of wetlands
Map of base layers

Where We Are Focusing:

Map of Orchards Mall

Orchards Mall

Focus on mixed use opportunities to create a regional retail destination through infill development, and more housing options. Improve storm water management strategies.

Map of Pipestone Corridor

Pipestone Corridor

Improve multi-modal access and develop sustainable storm water management practices.

Map of Rural


Manage farmland and industrial storm water run-off to reduce pollutants before they enter Ox Creek.

Map of Mall Drive

Mall Drive

Improve multi-modal access (walking, cycling, driving and public transit use), and explore mixed-use infill opportunities.

Map of Greenfield Development

Greenfield Development

Provide a new mixed-use district within the Orchards Mall shopping district that showcases innovative storm-water management techniques effectively.

Map of Transportation


Utilize Exit 29 — I-94 Interchange as a gateway to the Twin Cities and the Orchards Mall shopping district that showcases water features while improving it with constructed wetlands. Also establish a trailhead for the future Ox Creek Trail.

Examples of Best Urban Stormwater Management Practices

Water – slow it down, spread it out, soak it in!

Rain Gardens
An excellent example of adding beauty with a purpose. These gardens are planted in small depressions designed to temporarily hold and soak in rain water runoff that flows from parking lots.

Assessing maximum use of parking lots and converting the extra into grassy areas into artificial swales is a way to manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase rainwater infiltration.

Green Roofs
A green roof provides a rainwater buffer, purifies the air, reduces the ambient temperature, regulates the indoor temperature, saves energy and encourages biodiversity in the city.

Water Runoff Retention Areas
Planting water runoff retention areas lined with native shrubs, perennials, and flowers improves business curb appeal. Employees can be involved in designing and planting the garden space.

Bioretention Basins
These “stormwater treatment centers” are effective at removing sediment, trace heavy metals, nutrients, possible bacteria, and organics found in stormwater. The example shows basins as tree-lined parking lot islands.

Green Walls
Exterior green walls reduce the solar reflectance of a structure, thus reducing the urban heat island effect. Soil and plants are a natural filter that can clean the water that flows through the wall, and slow down water from roofs.