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Lakefront hopes

David Beach  |  06/10/13 @ 4:00pm  |  Posted in Connecting to nature

A great lakefront—clean, beautiful, green, and publicly accessible—has been at the top of Cleveland's civic to-do list for decades. Now it's starting to happen.

Edgewater Park in Cleveland<br />

Advocates for Cleveland lakefront parks cheered last week as Cleveland Metroparks completed a historic deal to take over management of the parks from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. It was an obviously good idea whose time had finally come.

The hope is that the Metroparks will be able to maintain, improve, police, and link up the parks much better than the funding-starved ODNR. The deal comes on top of two other recent good moves by the Metroparks: the acquisition of Acacia Country Club and the completion of the West Creek Watershed Stewardship Center (dedication ceremony on June 21).

From west to east, the lakefront deal includes Edgewater Park, East 55th Street Marina, Gordon Park, Euclid Beach Park, Villa Angela Park and Wildwood Park. One missing piece is the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve (Dike 14), which would require a separate deal with the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority.

Here is the Metroparks' June 6 statement describing the lakefront agreement:

What started as a descriptive euphemism, the "Emerald Necklace," is now a reality. Today, Cleveland Metroparks signed a historic long-term lease agreement with the City of Cleveland and the State of Ohio that transfers management of six lakefront parks to the Park District, adding another gem to the "Emerald Necklace" and encircling Greater Cleveland with parklands.

Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Governor John Kasich met at Euclid Beach Park today to sign the agreement, transferring management of Edgewater Park, East 55th Street Marina, Gordon Park, Euclid Beach Park, Villa Angela Park and Wildwood Park to the Park District.

“Today is the culmination of years of hard work and negotiations,” said Zimmerman. “The addition of these six properties to the Emerald Necklace is an integral part of Cleveland Metroparks’ Strategic Plan as we move toward our goal of playing a key role in the transformation of Cleveland’s lakefront.”

The 455 acres that make up the six properties will be split into two Park District reservations. Edgewater Park, East 55th Street Marina and Gordon Park will form Cleveland Metroparks’ new Lakefront Reservation. Euclid Beach Park, Villa Angela Park and Wildwood Park will become part of its existing Euclid Creek Reservation.

“The residents of Greater Cleveland hold Cleveland Metroparks to a high standard when it comes to maintenance and safety within the Park District,” said Park Commissioner Debra Berry. “These same standards of cleanliness, stewardship and safety will be applied to the lakefront parks as well.”

To facilitate the transfer, the State of Ohio first had to agree to terminate the lease it had with the City of Cleveland to manage the parks. The agreement included $14 million from the state’s transportation and public safety budget to pay for lakefront park improvements. Cleveland City Council then voted unanimously to transfer management of the parks to Cleveland Metroparks in a new lease agreement.

The final agreement gives the Park District a 99-year lease on the 14 miles of lakefront property at a cost of $1 a year, and three years to spend the $14 million in state funds on park improvements.

“Not since the Park District acquired the Cleveland Zoo in 1970 has such a large scale and popular acquisition occurred,” said Presiding Probate Judge Anthony Russo, the appointing authority for the Board of Park Commissioners. “Cleveland Metroparks must now manage, develop and protect the lakefront with the same skill and expertise as it does with its other parks. I am confident the Park District can accomplish this and that it will prove to be one of the most significant single events in the almost 100 year history of Cleveland Metroparks.”

More details about the lakefront parks.

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David Beach
9 years ago

Bill, thanks for the clarification on ownership vs. management. It's important to distinguish between fill deposited on the lake bed that becomes part of the lake and owned by the state and structures (such as docks or buildings)built in the lake or on fill that can be owned by others. In both cases, the uses are regulated by a submerged lands lease from the state.

I agree that the upper layers of fill at Dike 14 have been tested and shown to be safe for visitors -- and it's important to reassure people of that. My only point was that, as with many other confined disposal facilities containing dredgings from industrial rivers, the older and lower layers of fill at Dike 14 may contain more contaminated sediments, which could pose a long-term liability.

It certainly makes sense for the Metroparks to take over management of the Lakefront Nature Preserve at some point. We should all encourage that.

One other point that had not been made in this discussion is that it's ironic that the state and Governor Kasich are getting credit for agreeing to relinquish the lakefront parks. After all, it was the state's failure to properly fund the parks that made us wish for the Metroparks to assume control.

Bill Gruber
9 years ago

Actually, the ownership of the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve (at Dike 14) is very simple and clear. The State owns the Preserve. The State has leased the Preserve to the Port, though that submerged lands lease expires in a few years. As to the safety of the site, the soils have been tested and it is perfectly safe for visitors. An additional remediation over one hot spot was just completed in April. For a number of years the Metroparks has maintained the mowed trails there. Meanwhile, a grass-roots citizens group called the Dike 14 Nature Preserve Committee is asking Metroparks to take over the Port's Lease and the control and caretaking of the Preserve. Of course Metroparks has a lot on its plate having just taken over the Lakefront Parks, but the Preserve would not add much more of a liability seeing that it is fenced and has minimal maintenance needs for now. Clevelanders should tell the Metroparks that we need their experience and vision at the Nature Preserve.

David Beach
9 years ago

As I understand it, the ownership of Dike 14 (now the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve) is a complex situation. The lake bed under the dike is owned by the State of Ohio as a public trust resource. The dike and the harbor dredgings it contains were constructed under the auspices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but now that the dike is closed the Port Authority has accepted responsibility. This ownership comes with potential liability, since some of the older dredgings are polluted, so it's uncertain that any other entity would want the site.

Currently, the Port is supporting efforts to maintain Dike 14 as a nature preserve. Plans for ecological restoration are underway. For more information, see www.portofcleveland.com/infrastructure-environment/cleveland-lakefront-nature-preserve/

The lakefront property east of Dike 14 is a federal installation -- a former Nike missile site that is a relic of the Cold War. It's still used for federal offices. I haven't heard of any plans for the federal government to give it up. Perhaps other people can leave a comment with an update.

Understanding Gap
9 years ago

Why does the Port Authority maintain ownership of Dike 14? What are the Port Authority's plans for the property? What's the deal with the lakefront property immediately to the east of Dike 14?

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