Blue and Gold Alumna Goes Green

Notre Dame Alumna Irene Dolnacko Toth ’46 is doing her part to preserve the environment for the next generation.

Throughout Northeast Ohio, shopping malls, grocery stores and new lifestyle centers stand where lush green spaces once flourished. However, a small group of committed volunteers is working to preserve green space in Cleveland’s south west suburbs in the area surrounding the West Creek. Notre Dame College alumna Irene Dolnacko Toth ’46 is a committed volunteer, member of the Board of Trustees and newsletter editor for this group known as the West Creek Preservation Committee.

The group, founded in 1997, exists to conserve green space in these communities while improving water quality and creating outdoor recreational opportunities in the West Creek Watershed. The West Creek is a tributary of the Cuyahoga River that runs through the suburbs of Parma, Seven Hills, Brooklyn Heights and Independence.

“The West Creek is an oasis in a heavily developed city like Parma,” commented Irene. “My husband and I used to take our grandchildren down to the creek when they would come to visit. We’d explore the creek and find fossils together.”

Years later, at the beginning of her involvement with the West Creek Preservation Committee, Irene would use those fossils as the cornerstone of educational talks she would present to local school children. The children soon gave her the nickname of “fossil lady.”

Over the Committee’s ten-year history, volunteer members like Irene have worked to preserve more than 500 acres of green space in their community. Recently, over 350 of those acres became the newest “jewel” in the Cleveland Metroparks. The group has even bigger plans for the future, including the acquisition of more green space, connecting the West Creek to other city parks and neighborhoods as well as the Ohio & Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor’s Towpath Trail.

Involvement in the group is an outgrowth of Irene’s commitment to God and her husband’s memory. “My husband used to be the assistant city engineer. He didn’t like what Parma was doing with its land. There were promises of preserving wetlands that never came to be. I know if he were still with us today, he’d be as active as I am in preserving this space,” said Irene. She continues, “Working in nature is a way to seek community with God. God wants us to take care of the land, not destroy it.”

Along with volunteering between 10 to 15 hours a week with the West Creek Preservation Committee, Irene is part of the American Contract Bridge League and participates in national bridge tournaments here in Cleveland. She says, “At 83, I am not only using the education I received at Notre Dame College, but all my life experiences as well as the talents God gave me. It has been very gratifying.”

To find out more about the West Creek Preservation Committee, visit their website at

Mary Elizabeth Cotleur is the director of alumni relations at Notre Dame College.

E.g., 06/24/19
E.g., 06/24/19