Once one of the most polluted river in the United States, the 100-mile long Cuyahoga River, which winds its way through downtown Cleveland, has caught fire 13 times. At one point, the stretch between downtown Cleveland and Akron was empty of fish. Indeed, among Cleveland’s more well-known attributes – such as being the home to great museums such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as the hometown of the once-hero-now-villain superstar basketball player, Lebron James – “The Burning River” is one that people are probably prone to be less proud of. Mention the Cuyahoga to a Clevelander and you’re likely to get a laugh, snort, or look of disgust.
Despite its unfortunate reputation, however, the Cuyahoga river is no longer flammable. Today much cleaner, the Cuyahoga has started attracting not only fish but Clevelanders to its waters. In fact, thanks to the Cleveland Rowing Foundation (CRF), which was founded by several rowing fanatics in 1986 and operates the only boathouse in Northeastern Ohio, over 850 high school and college students and adults have enjoyed rowing on the Cuyahoga in downtown Cleveland.
Currently the CRF is embarking on a roughly $3 million project to create a public park and recreation center on a thumb of land along the Cuyahoga River in the downtown area. Rivergate Park will provide the public with wonderful opportunities to enjoy the largely inaccessible shores of the Cuyahoga River: along with a boathouse and a place to rent kayaks and canoes, there will be a bike path that curves along the banks of the river. But it won’t just be a place for exercise! One of the buildings that sits on the property that the CRF plans to transform into Rivergate Park (which once housed the Commodore’s Club Marina) comes with an additional benefit: a liquor license! Thus the CRF plans to open some sort of restaurant in the park, enabling people to enjoy wine, beer, or a cocktail while looking upon the crooked river, the numerous bridges that stretch across it, and the buildings of downtown Cleveland.
We recently went to a fundraising event at what will soon be the park. Easy to get to and accessible by the rapid (Cleveland’s above-ground version of a subway) this will certainly be a great place to hang out once the construction is finished. What’s great about the future park is that it is truly Cleveland – yes, people are rowing and being active and enjoying being outdoors, yet while standing on the bank of the river, watching the occasional barge/tug boat chug by and looking up at a rusty bridge, old buildings, and smoke-stacks in the distance, you are still amazed by the eerily beautiful, geometric, industrial aura of downtown Cleveland.