A large investment in Greater Cleveland’s greatest natural asset could result from a multi-jurisdictional planning effort announced on Oct. 17 at the Lakewood Women’s Club Pavilion at Lakewood Park. The investment could result in a transformative economic and quality of life payback for the region.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish announced $500,000 for conceptual-level planning for the cross-county Lake Erie Trail along more than 30 miles of the county’s shoreline.
Funding will come from the county, the Cleveland Metroparks, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency’s (NOACA) Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative, the Cleveland Foundation and others.
The model for this program is the City of Euclid’s waterfront improvements plan. Like most of Cuyahoga County, Euclid has two basic problems involving Lake Erie: lack of public access to the lake and an ongoing shoreline erosion challenge.
|Lakewood is another Cleveland suburb that has invested in its
lakefront, including the Solstice Steps and Promenade seen
here at Lakewood Park (Environmental Design Group).
Only 6 percent of Euclid’s shoreline is publicly accessible. Most of it is owned privately, usually by single-family households which are perched atop 20-foot-high cliffs above the eroding shoreline.
To protect those properties and to increase their values, the City of Euclid is investing up to $19 million to construct a 10-foot-wide lakefront trail to link several high-rise apartment complexes with the Kenneth J. Sims Park. The trail is aligned behind an erosion-resistant barricade comprised of two-ton limestone boulders and concrete retaining walls.
But Euclid’s portion is only two-thirds of a mile long and will cost nearly $13 million, including beaches, fishing piers, access points and replacing cliffs with more gentle slopes covered with native vegetation to prevent erosion.
|Construction on the first phases of Euclid’s waterfront improve-
ment project got underway in November 2018 (City of Euclid).
To offer the same shoreline treatments along the entire northern edge of the county where breakwalls or trails do not already exist could cost several hundred million dollars. Again, however, Euclid showed how it could be funded.
Euclid used a mix of local tax-increment financing from the higher property values, Cuyahoga County Casino Revenue Funds and Federal Emergency Management Agency grants through a pre-disaster mitigation program.
The participation of the Cleveland Metroparks, NOACA and Cleveland Foundation presumably would bring more funding resources into play. The effort could also spur private sector investments from real estate developers attracted to a more accessible, erosion-resistant lakefront.
There are already five miles of publicly accessible, dedicated trails along Cuyahoga County’s lakefront, located at Huntington Park, Lakewood Park, Edgewater Park, Gordon Park and the new Lakefront Bikeway along the West Shoreway.
It doesn’t include the unimproved, non-dedicated (not traffic-separated) Lakefront Bikeway in North Marginal Road along the East Shoreway, or other locations lacking non-dedicated biking/hiking infrastructure.
Once completed, the cross-county planning effort will prioritize investments based on costs-benefits and provide guidance for the next steps — namely, more detailed engineering and environmental documentation.