A bit of news that anyone who enjoys the Clark Fields — whether that's softball leagues, Cleveland Plays, fans of the dog park, or directors of Major League — should know about and celebrate: The long process of acquiring the funds and nailing down designs for the rebuild of the park is finally over. Come March, the massive $2.8 million construction process will begin that will entail a total makeover that will include new baseball fields, a new playground, a new dog park and even more that might have flown under the radar. Remember, or learn for the first time, that this dream began back in 2001.
"It will also incorporate the Towpath Trail, which will pass through it," says councilman Joe Cimperman. "And the city realized awhile ago that it had the potential to add 8 acres to the park, from a vacated cement plan that's right next to it, right by the Clark Ave. bridge ramp down toward the Steelyard. That purchase went through about a year and a half ago and we're not sure what we'll do with it yet, but it'll be part of the park."
There have been longstanding EPA issues on the land, but Cimperman says it's not anything you wouldn't find at any other city park — some lead, etc. — and that the rebuild will include digging almost everything out of the park, which will give them a chance to either add a cap or bring in fresh soil.
Those old enough to remember the Clark Fields for what they used to mean — burning cars, dead bodies, drugs, generic crime — know what a long way it's come since then. Cimperman credited the dog park with really changing the environment. "It was the first dog park in the city and it was at a time when the idea of dog parks were still controversial," he says.
And speaking of dogs: The Cleveland dog kennels, for anyone who's been through them, are currently and have been in poor shape for quite awhile. Those will be on the move too in conjunction with the park project. The new kennels will be located on W. 80th and Detroit. Construction on that project will probably not start for another year, which means we're two years out from a proper facility for the pups, but that should be welcome news.
Cimperman says that a public meeting on the Clark Field renovations to discuss the rebuild and answer public questions — what portions of the park will be open during construction? etc. — will be held sometime in the middle of February. He also said, in a very Cimperman way, that construction should begin by St. Joseph's day (March 19.)
"It'll be a pain in the ass for this year," he says. "But by this time next year, it'll be ready to go and amazing."