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has a number of important assets in the area of Recreation & Open Space that can be built upon. These include :

Cleveland is fortunate to be located on one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world. [ Whiskey Island]

Natural Features: Cleveland is fortunate to be located on one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world, Lake Erie. The lake has played an important role in the transportation of goods and materials that fuels the city’s economy and is one of the best sources of drinking water in the world. The vastness of Lake Erie creates an environment that is unusually compelling and lends itself to a wide variety of water-related activities. It also provides important habitat and migration corridors for a variety of birds and animals.

The Cuyahoga River and Valley are also important natural features that link Cleveland with many communities situated further from the lakeshore. The navigation channel, the more natural sections of the river, and the valley hillsides also create unique places that provide the opportunity for a variety of recreational experiences. The various tributaries that flow from higher elevations down to Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River also create corridors that provide opportunities to connect city neighborhoods to the lakefront and river.

The lakefront, hillsides along creek and river valleys, and the hillside of the Portage Escarpment offer excellent vistas of large parts of the city and Lake Erie. These views of expansive landscapes give the observer a strong sense of connection to the larger community.

Existing Park Systems: The Cleveland area benefits from a number of park systems administered at the local, county, state and national levels. Many of these parks are located along sections of the natural features cited above. The City of Cleveland’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Properties administers nearly 160 sites, from recreation centers to play lots. Some of the largest parks in the city were originally established in the 1890s as part of Cleveland’s first master park plan, which proposed a system of parks and parkways to that would ring the city. Gordon, Rockefeller, Wade, Shaker Lakes, Luke Easter, Garfield, Washington, Brookside and Edgewater parks, as well as West and MLKboulevards, were created as part of this first park system.

A second system, consisting of countywide parks, was proposed in 1916. The Metroparks were established predominantly in areas that were still rural and suburban in the early part of the 20 th century. The western part of the Emerald Necklace, so named because the park system takes the form of a loop of reservations around Cuyahoga County, lies along the far western boundary of the city along the Rocky River. Metroparks facilities are also located in the city along sections of the Big Creek and Mill Creek. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the Mill Creek waterfall and the First Tee golf learning center at Washington Reservation are all facilities that the Metroparks operate within the city. The Metroparks have recently claimed an even greater presence within the first ring suburbs and the city with the expansion of the park system along West Creek, Mill Creek and the Cuyahoga River Valley. The establishment of the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation and the extension of the Towpath Trail north from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to Harvard Road bring a major part of the Metroparks system to downtown Cleveland’s doorstep.

The Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation and the Towpath Trail now connect the city to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which is one of the most visited parks in the national park system. Not only is a national park located in part of the Cuyahoga Valley, but there are a number of other national designations along the valley that may be leveraged to complement recreation and open space projects. The Ohio & Erie Canalway National Byway, the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Corridor, and the Cuyahoga American Heritage River all benefit, as officially designated natural treasures, from national programs promoting the history of the area. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad offers riders an alternative transportation choice for observing the natural and historic features of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, as well as providing connections to Akron and Canton. Its northern terminus is currently five miles south of the city of Cleveland at Rockside Road; but operators of the railroad would like to extend it north toward Downtown Cleveland.

The State of Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources administers most of the public lakefront parks in the city including Edgewater Park, the East 55 th Street Marina, Gordon Park, Euclid Beach, Villa Angela and Wildwood Park. These parks collectively cover approximately 450 acres.

City Park and Recreation Facilities: The City of Cleveland’s Parks Department administers a wide range of recreational facilities including play lots, playgrounds, community parks, district parks and recreation centers. The few passive open spaces it administers are concentrated primarily near downtown. The roughly 160 sites located within the city cover approximately 1,400 acres and include 87 neighborhood level parks and 17 recreation centers. Approximately 180 urban gardens are located in city neighborhoods. A recent study by the Northeast Ohio Foodshed Network indicates that the $100,000 in block grant monies invested annually reap an annual $1,000,000 worth of produce for residents. Gardening itself provides needed physical activity for many people and is also an activity that promotes intergenerational contact.

Despite its image as an industrial river with water quality problems the recreational potential of the Cuyahoga River is currently being realized by some recreational organizations. [Western Reserve Rowing Foundation members]

Recreational Organizations: “Communities” of residents drawn to various types of recreation, have formed been formed to promote their favorite pastime and organize events aimed at increasing participation. Rowing, road and mountain biking, walking, hiking, field trips for natural history buffs, and bird watching are all examples of local interests around which groups of enthusiasts have formed. These groups bring a great degree of expertise, passion and energy that can be mobilized to expand local recreational offerings.

A number of private groups lease or own facilities on the waterfronts that have been improved to provide access to their members. In the Collinwood area, a number of small lakefront parks located at the ends of cul-de-sacs are owned and maintained by an association of homeowners on that street. A number of private marinas located on the lakefront and river channels provide water access to their members.

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