A Missed Urban Park Opportunity -- In My Opinion

I know this blog will be a tough one for me to write. Additionally, I know that this blog contains ideas which some people will not agree with. However, these ideas are just the way I feel.

The vacant land on Scranton Peninsula in Cleveland should not be turned into apartments, but rather, a park. This park would have many purposes. It would serve as a loop connector trail for the Scranton Flats section of the Towpath Trail, the Centennial Lake Link Trail, and the Red Line Greenway Metroparks Trail. Additionally, with the amazing view of downtown Cleveland, this park could act like New York City’s Central Park – in the sense that this park space would be next to downtown.

Why do I feel this way?

There are many reasons why I feel that there should not be new construction of residential units on Scranton Peninsula. One reason is because of traffic congestions which occur from oar ships passing through swing and lift bridges. For five years, I lived on the west bank of the flats near the Center Street swing bridge. If an oar ship was going though the bridge, it became a congested nightmare for cars trying to either leave or get to their apartment. Okay, so the congested nightmare typically only occured for 15 minutes at a time, which is not enough of a reason to not build residential units, but it certainly did become a frustration during rush hour and after dealing with it for several years. Another frustrating factor is that, oftentimes, people driving cars who are stuck in bridge traffic – but who are not going to cross the bridge once the bridge is locked back in place for roadway traffic and the crossing gates opens up, will end up crossing the double yellow line on the roadway to try and get around the traffic that is patiently waiting. I can only imagine that this scenario will become more frequent when there are additional people leaving their home on Scranton Peninsula. I foresee additional traffic accidents, coupled with frustration by motorists who are trying to illegally pass getting caught up in scenarios where they are now jammed by oncoming cars who are there because they too, just 20 seconds prior, likely illegally passed cars on another road. This is a tricky scenario to type, so I included a map in a photo which shows an image of this type of scenario. I have witnessed this kind of scenario occur as I sat patiently waiting for the Columbus Rd. Bridge, (minus the motorists on Carter Rd, which I can only suspect would add to the mess that occurs when an oar ship passes through this bridge during a high traffic volume time. Also, on behalf of the motorists who patiently do wait, and don't drive around, (even if not crossing the bridge), let me personally say that seeing motorists illegally cross the double yellow stripes to pass vehicles that are waiting on the oar ship to to pass by and for the bridge to re-open for vehicles, gets quite frustrating as well.

Another thing I think of from when I livedinthe flats, was the first time I took a bicycle ride to the Centennial Lake Link Trail and the Scranton Flats section of the Towpath Trail. My thoughts when I discovered these areas in the summer of 2015 were pure joy. I thought “Yes, this is amazing”, and “we need more of this!” There were other people enjoying the trail too. From runners, to walkers, and other bicycle riders. People were out, enjoying nature within the heart of our great city. On this maiden voyage of mine, I even remember a snake crossing the Centennial Lake Link Trail about 15 feet in front of me. When that occurred, my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed thoughts were “How cool!” “A snake!” “HERE!” -- eluding to the amazement I felt at seeing a snake in the wild right near downtown Cleveland. At that moment I was so eager to discover the rest of the peninsula – where the all-purpose trails did not go. I remember seeing an abandoned building – which much to my present-day delight, has been repurposed into Brew Dog. I also remember seeing lots of vacant land. I instantly thought that this land should be public park land, and that the all-purpose trail should extend to this part of the peninsula.

I feel that people want to get more in-touch with nature and want to live closer to areas of park land that have natural areas, such as woods, meadows, and wetlands. With the recent construction of nearby apartments such as INTRO Cleveland (W. 25th& Lorain Ave.), Waterford Bluffs (W. 20th& Lorain Ave.), apartments and townhomes being built at Abbey Ave. and Smith Ct. in between W.19th & W.20th, townhomes on W. 19th south of Freeman, apartments such as Treo on W. 25th north of Potter Ct., and apartments such as The Lincoln and The Tappan -- both on Scranton Rd. less than a mile away from the Carter Peninsula… just, wow! What was I saying here? Oh, right. With the recent construction of nearby residential buildings, coupled with more nearby residential buildings being planned to be built, I feel that the increase of residents to this area is high enough to keep Scranton Peninsula as non-residential, but rather, a park where nearby residents and downtown workers can escape the city and enjoy nature – without even having to leave the heart of the city!

What exactly do I envision?

I envision the area to be part forest land, part meadow and even a part as mowed grass. A trail connecting these three sections would also exist. Additionally, I envision the area along the banks of the Cuyahoga River (off the western side of Carter Rd.) to be a constructed wetland, where stormwater can naturally get filtered before flowing off into the Cuyahoga River. I envision the constructed wetland area to have a walkway for people to stroll on and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Cuyahoga River and Downtown Cleveland, while breathing in the fresh smell of nature, and seeing things like snakes, frogs, birds, and butterflies, and hearing bees, crickets, and cicadas – all within a less than 10-minute walk from the heart of Downtown Cleveland. I mentioned that it would be like a Central Park for Downtown Cleveland. While I understand that Central Park is 843 acres,¹ and, using Google Earth, I mapped out the portion of Scranton Peninsula which I am discussing, at 22 acres in size, I truly feel that having this be a park space would be – or rather, would have been – an important feature for ensuring that the nearby neighborhoods thrive for the long-haul.

Why choose a public park then?

There is an ample amount of information regarding the benefits of urban parks. They encourage an active lifestyle, strengthen the local economy, increase community engagement, reduce crime, and help clean the air and reduce the urban heat-island effect.² Ultimately, creating additional parks – like wooded / meadow parks within cities, would not only benefit nature, it would also benefit the community.

Lastly, the COP15 UN Conference, (which stands for the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity), is taking place this December 7th – 19th in Montreal, Canada.³ This conference occurs due to the framework of an international agreement in 1992 which has “three primary goals:

  • To conserve biodiversity, which includes species, ecosystems, and genetic diversity.
  • To use its components, like wild animals, in a sustainable way.
  • And to share the various benefits of genetic resources fairly. Those resources might include medicines derived from bacteria or genes that produce desirable traits in crops, such as drought tolerance.”⁴

This conference “will convene governments from around the world to agree to a new set of goals for nature over the next decade through the Convention on Biological Diversity post-2020 framework process. The framework sets out an ambitious plan to implement broad-based action to bring about a transformation in society’s relationship with biodiversity and to ensure that, by 2050, the shared vision of living in harmony with nature is fulfilled.”⁵ While I like to think that positive things will come out of conferences like this, I also realize that even if positive things do occur, it will likely not be enough to do what is necessary to minimize ecosystem damage, loss of natural area habitat, and degradation of biodiversity. Sadly, the United States is the only member of the United Nations that has yet to ratify this agreement.⁶

I’d like to think that humanity does the right thing. I hope that people find the balance between greed and the global need to protect the planet. I hope... even though I do not see the things needed for this balance occurring. With the current world population surpassing 8 billion people last month⁷, I hope that humanity finds the integrity that is needed to protect this planet. Would having one plot of approximately 22 acres of a wooded and meadow park on a peninsula next to downtown Cleveland really matter? In my opinion, yes. If the question is posed once about one thing, then that question is also being asked elsewhere about other things. How far do we take our environmental degradation of this planet, and how much we restore it, is completely up to us.

Blog author: Chris Vasco, Stormwater Specialist


¹ https://www.centralparknyc.org/park-history

² https://cityparksalliance.org/about-us/why-city-parks-matter/






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