Cleveland Metroparks Continues Significant Improvements at Cleveland’s Euclid Beach, Villa Angela and Wildwood Parks
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It’s hard to believe that only 21 months have passed since the historic transfer of lakefront property brought Euclid Beach, Villa Angela and Wildwood parks from the State of Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources to Cleveland Metroparks.
A joint press conference to officially announce the occasion was held at Euclid Beach Park on June 6, 2013 with Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman, Mayor Frank Jackson and Governor John Kasich all in attendance.
Since that time, the Park District has been working simultaneously on assessing long-term needs and capital improvements, engaging community members and soliciting feedback through a series of public meetings and surveys, and improving park cleanliness and safety.
The process of improving all of the lakefront parks, and bringing them up to the standards that visitors have come to expect from other Cleveland Metroparks properties, is ongoing. At Euclid Beach, Villa Angela and Wildwood, this process started in 2013 with large-scale clean-up projects. Significant amounts of overgrown brush and debris were removed. Trees were trimmed, landscaping was touched up. Combing the sand on the beach became a daily ritual. Leaky restroom fixtures were repaired and the Park District’s Ranger Division began regular patrols.
Ongoing public meetings were held where the Park District heard from many local stakeholders and neighborhood residents. The primary goal during the first several months of management was to improve cleanliness and safety. Many meeting attendees also brought questions, the majority of which were related to what capital improvements the Park District might tackle first, and more specifically, what might lie ahead for the future of the pier at Euclid Beach?
To prepare for the first full spring and summer season of managing the lakefront parks, Cleveland Metroparks planned its initial round of programming for Euclid Beach, Villa Angela and Wildwood, including bird walks, an exploration hike, a watercolor class, nature-play programs for parents and preschoolers, and a volunteer planting session at Wildwood, and of course the immensely popular weekly live music event Euclid Beach LIVE that drew thousands of visitors to Euclid Beach Park. Euclid Beach LIVE was an excellent opportunity for neighborhood residents to gather, enjoy a concert performance and view the lake. Children played, neighbors shared conversation and the park was full once again. The Friday night concert series will return for the 2015 season in an expanded format, featuring 10 nights of live music.
The activities of 2014 were just the beginning of what can be expected in future years at Euclid Beach. Visitors to Euclid Beach, Villa Angela and Wildwood parks can expect to see upwards of $2.5 million in capital improvements over the next 24 months as part of the ongoing fulfillment of the Park District’s Lakefront Master Plan.
These improvements will be guided by several overarching principles including making the parks clean and safe for all visitors, incorporating elements of urban ecology and sustainability, connecting people with water, enhancing access through wayfinding signage and improved connections to surrounding neighborhoods and existing greenspaces, and supporting the lakefront as a catalyst for strengthening the community.
The first two most readily noticeable improvements for the lakefront parks in Euclid Creek Reservation will be the addition of a new pedestrian bridge over Euclid Creek and the construction of a new pier at Euclid Beach.
The 150-foot, ADA accessible pedestrian bridge will improve visitor access from Villa Angela to Wildwood by crossing over Euclid Creek at the existing trail rather than requiring walkers or cyclists to circle up toward the road to get to the current crossing. This $678,000 project is under construction now and should be open by May 31. The project also includes 800-feet of all purpose trail, trail lighting, and beach-front landscaping.
ADA access to the beach at Villa Angela is also under construction and is scheduled for completion by June 1.
Euclid Beach will see the creation of a beautiful new $1.5 million pier that will take visitors out over the water complete with ADA accessibility, decorative lighting and fishing access. Construction of the pier is slated to begin in fall 2015 for a 2016 opening date.
Other important infrastructure improvements and facility upgrades will include three renovated restroom facilities, electrical system upgrades, and retaining wall work.
Cleveland Metroparks knows that Euclid Beach, Villa Angela and Wildwood are important recreation destinations, particularly for neighborhood residents. During the Park District’s interactions with visitors during the 2014 season, the desire to eventually see lifeguards at Euclid Beach was raised several times. Considering that under state management, ODNR had not staffed the beach with lifeguards in several years, Cleveland Metroparks felt additional safety assessment was mandatory. The Park District began investigating the possibility of guarding Euclid Beach in earnest and discovered that the situation was worse than previously thought.
An analysis of water quality survey data and ongoing research performed by the Park District and an experienced engineering firm revealed complex conditions at Euclid Beach that make swimming unsafe. These conditions include significant underwater erosion, shifting currents, unpredictable changes in water depth, frequent formation of rip tides and above average occurrences in both quantity and severity of water quality advisory days. However daunting these conditions seem, the Park District does not consider them insurmountable.
Further evaluation is planned for this spring, including a wave analysis study. All of the data collected will then be considered and potential solutions will be investigated. Federal permits will be required from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to alter the breakwalls or perform other large scale engineering projects in order to create conditions to make this area safer for swimming. Cleveland Metroparks is working toward a solution that will ultimately allow lifeguards to be stationed at Euclid Beach.
While the Park District works toward that goal, it urges everyone to learn to swim. Free swimming lessons are available, without a city residency requirement, through the City of Cleveland’s Collinwood Recreation Center directly across the street from Euclid Beach Park. The Park District began helping the City of Cleveland promote their free swimming lessons in spring 2014 and the city saw an almost 15 percent increase in the number of people taking advantage of the lessons over the previous year. This is an encouraging development and one that can only help improve safety in the water at Euclid Beach when it’s ready for open swimming.
More information and links to registration are available at clevelandmetroparks.com/main/water-safety.aspx.
For more information and to see the Lakefront Master Plan drafts, please visit clevelandmetroparks.com/Main/Lakefront-Planning-Meetings.aspx.