CEO Brian Zimmerman often says that park system founder William Stitchcomb's original vision embraced the city's lakefront. Now that Cleveland's lakefront parks are being managed by the Metroparks, that vision -- and the Emerald Necklace itself -- are several steps closer to completion.
In an interview with Fresh Water
, Zimmerman outlined his vision for the parks based on a slew of community meetings, public comments and ongoing facilities assessments.
The Metroparks, which began managing the new Lakefront Reservation on June 6th, is focusing its first year on "Clean, Safe and Learn." The reservation includes Edgewater Park, E. 55th Street Marina, Gordon Park, Villa Angela, Euclid Beach and Wildwood. So far, approximately 3,500 cubic yards of sand have been moved back onto the beach at Edgewater, 20 40-yard dumpsters of debris have been hauled off the beaches, and dozens of picnic tables have been repaired.
And the Metroparks is just getting started, with the best still yet to come. While nothing is set in stone, Zimmerman mentioned new restroom facilities, kite and bike rental, a splash pad, new picnic pavilion and expanded concessions as options for Edgewater Park, which offers one of the most glorious sunsets in the entire Midwest but has long suffered from insufficient amenities. He also referenced improving bike and pedestrian trails and enhancing access to Perkins Beach.
"We're looking at the question, 'What does the park need to be a regional and even national destination?'" said Zimmerman. "We're listening to what the community is looking for, then applying what we've learned in managing the parks so far."
The Lakefront Reservation could eventually function more like Huntington Beach, which has a concessionaire with a wider range of food and beverage offerings than is now available at Edgewater Park, Zimmerman says. The other parks have no concessionaires at all, and it's possible that these could be added down the road.
Although the region's eyes are on much-used Edgewater, a report by LAND Studio also touted opportunities to enhance amenities and neighborhood connections at Gordon Park, better link Collinwood's parks to new development on Lakeshore Boulevard and add more signature Metroparks programming to all the parks.
"Lakefront parks can be anchors for new development, neighborhood connections and prior investments by community development leaders," argued a LAND Studio presentation given to the Metroparks Board of Directors last month.
The Metroparks' ability to effectively manage and add new facilities, amenities and programming to the lakefront parks will depend in part on the passage this November of a new 10-year levy. Cuyahoga County and Hinckley Township voters will be asked to approve a 1.8-mill renewal and 0.9-mill increase for the parks. This would add $32 to the annual homeowner tax bill per $100,000 of value.
Based on revenue projections, the Metroparks will create a new 10-year capital plan for all of its parks, including the Lakefront Reservation, sometime in 2014.
Source: Brian Zimmerman
Writer: Lee Chilcote