by Sam Allard
Edgewater Park, East 55th Marina, Gordon Park, Euclid Beach Park, Villa Angela Park and Wildwood Park by June will now be under the watchful eye of an entity many citizens and officials presume is more suited to the task.
"Everything they touch, they improve," said councilman Mike Polensek of the Metroparks after last night's meeting. Three of the parks are in his Ward 11.
The Metroparks are most definitely essential to Cleveland — and they have a bomb-ass Twitter feed too — but they're also strapped for cash. Even the $14 million they're slated to get from ODNR for upgrades and maintenance may not be enough.
When the Metroparks acquired Seneca Golf Course in 2011 — context, here — the leadership promised $4 million in improvements which have yet to materialize. At the last board meeting, Metroparks officials indicated that the improvements at Seneca would be complete by 2015, but the 2013 budget only says that Seneca will "continue to undergo the preliminary phase of some significant capital improvements."
One resident who's been attending Metroparks board meetings since 1996 says he's more than a little uncertain about the financial situation. He thinks that with the number of rangers who've retired or been laid off, the Metroparks will have a hard time keeping the parks clean and safe.
But Erin Huber, Executive Director of Drink Local Drink Tap, thinks that a new Urban Beach Ambassador Program, funded with a start-up grant from the Cleveland Foundation, might be the key ingredient to beach safety and awareness.
"It's modeled after the Downtown Alliance," says Huber in a phone interview. "It's designed so that we can keep a watchful eye and to encourage more people to come down."
Huber says she's eager to see aesthetic improvements at Edgewater Park in particular, not to mention regular upkeep of the trash cans and bathrooms.
"Some healthy food options would be nice too," she says. "When people are in a cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing environment, they treat it better."
True that. I mean right now, Edgewater looks like shit. Drink Local, Drink Tap organized a beach cleanup on Saturday, and more than fifty-five people came out and collected 350+ pounds of trash.
"There were snowflakes and people were surfing." Huber said. "This is Cleveland. People show up whether it's hot or cold."
Edgewater Park, where we surf among syringes, ice bergs and toxic fish and sunbathe among diapers....but not for long.