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.
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.”