Cleveland to Take Over Lakefront State Park?
A proposal in the Ohio House would return control of Cleveland Lakefront State Park, a string of six parks along the lakeshore beset with maintenance and crime problems, to the city of Cleveland.
The provision, in a House transportation bill introduced Tuesday (Feb. 5), makes no mention of the Cleveland Metroparks, which has long been regarded as the likely manager of the parks should they return to local control, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.
The bill calls for the "mutual termination" of a 50-year lease between Cleveland and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). It authorizes the state to spend $14 million as part of the agreement.
The bill is part Gov. John Kasich's state budget plan, unveiled earlier this week. Hearings on the legislation opened Wednesday, and it will likely be months before the bill faces passage.
The idea has support from the city of Cleveland. Mayor Frank Jackson, in a letter this week to the governor, urged the early dismissal of ODNR's lease, which is in its 35th year.
"We have chosen this time to make this proposal because local efforts are coalescing around a comprehensive new plan for local operation and maintenance on Cleveland's riverfront and lakefront assets," Jackson said.
The state-run parks — Villa Angela, Wildwood, Euclid Beach, Gordon Park, E. 55th St. Marina and Edgewater — have accrued an estimated $16 million in deferred maintenance, according to a 2012 assessment. Without necessary funding or staffing, the areas have suffered from neglected upkeep and scant police protection. The lakefront parks have more serious crime than the state's other 74 parks combined.
ODNR rescinding control of the Cleveland parkland regions would be mutually beneficial to the state and the city, said the department's director, James Zehringer, in a news release.
"It's not only consistent with the city's long-term vision for the Lake Erie waterfront but also in the best financial interest of Ohio," Zehringer said, "and that win-win is reflected in the good agreement we've reached with the city."
Recent discussions about the parks have focused on an ultimate takeover by the Cleveland Metroparks, which has been studying the parks' assets and needs. But on Wednesday, the Metroparks executive director, Brian Zimmerman, said the Metroparks is not involved in the current talks.
"The conversations continue between the city and state," Zimmerman, said. "The Cleveland Metroparks are excited that the city and state are working to return the parks to local control."
In his letter, Jackson said the transfer to the city would allow several recreation areas to be linked.
"We will soon be able to link a completed Towpath Trail, Cuyahoga County's Wendy Park, a new lakefront development north of the FirstEnergy football stadium and the Cleveland Lakefront State Parks in an 'inner necklace' to complement Northeast Ohio's 'emerald necklace' of regional parklands."