For decades, the east side of Cleveland was almost hopelessly cut off from its lakefront by scars of past planning mistakes -- the ugly sutures of highways, concrete barriers, railroads and, of course, industry.
No more. With the opening this week of the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve
, these impoverished neighborhoods -- and indeed, all of Greater Cleveland and beyond -- have access to a premiere wildlife habitat in the heart of the city.
This new, 88-acre urban preserve is located just north of where Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. meets I-90, and it is accessible from Lakeshore Boulevard before it enters Bratenahl. The park is built upon the former Dike 14, a dredging disposal facility operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1979 until 1999.
For more than a decade, a coalition of environmental groups calling themselves the Dike 14 Nature Preservation Committee has been fighting to turn this manmade outcropping into a park. Their vision was simple: no ballfields, just park benches and a loop trail that allow visitors a peaceful retreat among the flora and fauna, as well as stupendous view of downtown Cleveland from the "beak" of the park.
Thanks to the critical leadership of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority
, this vision finally became a reality. When new CEO Will Friedman took the Port's helm, he made the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve an institutional priority. The Port will continue to manage and oversee the Preserve now that it's open.
Despite the barbed wire fences, birds still stop here on their annual migrations, trees and plants grow in abandon, and many animals call this place home. (Truth is: hikers, birders and wildlife lovers have been slipping through a neglected gap in the fence for more than a decade to enjoy winsome walks along the coast.)
Still -- there's something to be said for the fact that it's now official.
Source: Earthday Coalition
Writer: Lee Chilcote