Whiskey Island offered as trailhead for Towpath Trail

(Plain Press, August 2005) Whiskey Island may someday become the crowning jewel of the Cleveland Metroparks Emerald Necklace and the trailhead for the Ohio Canal Corridor Towpath Trail, extending 110 miles from Cleveland to Dover/New Philadelphia, Ohio. The Cleveland Metroparks are currently working with the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area to extend the towpath trail to Canal Basin Park on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland’s Flats. The proposal by Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland would extend the trail all the way to Whiskey Island.

On July 21st the Plain Dealer reported that Cuyahoga County (which owns the newly-dedicated Wendy Park and the Whiskey Island Marina) came to an agreement with the City of Cleveland (owner of the former Coast Guard station on Whiskey Island) to ask the Metroparks to eventually take over Whiskey Island.

Paving the way for this historic agreement was a decision by the Cleveland Port Authority to withdraw from efforts to purchase the Whiskey Island Marina and the park from Cuyahoga County.

A number of interest groups supporting the vision behind Cuyahoga County’s Whiskey Island Improvement Plan lobbied the County Commissioner to stop the sale to the Port Authority. Supporters of the Cuyahoga County Plan feared that the Port Authority’s plans to use the Whiskey Island Marina space for bulk storage would ruin plans drawn up by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission for the site. If the Port Authority took over the marina site and the marina moved east on the peninsula, parking for the marina would take up much of the park space.

At the grand opening of Wendy Park on June 25th, Ed Hauser of Friends of Whiskey Island stressed the importance of who controls the park in determining its future. Hauser urged those in attendance to write to the Cuyahoga County Commissioners in support of the plan drawn up by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission.

Paul Alsenas of the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission explained the county’s vision for the park. The county’s plans call for keeping the marina, the volleyball courts and the beach area. Alsenas said he is working closely with the Cleveland Natural History Museum staff to restore parts of Whiskey Island to its natural state. The plan calls for creation of a marsh and the restoration of a meadow using plants native to Ohio. Alsenas said that grass was planted as a first step in the meadow restoration. The grass will be allowed to cover the area for two years to eliminate seeds of invasive species to prepare the area for the native Ohio species.

The plan also calls for the design of a pedestrian bridge to link the east bank of the flats to Whiskey Island. Alsenas said the County’s plan would eventually involve turning the management of the park over to the Metroparks.

Cuyahoga County purchased the 62-acre park and marina from Dan Moore’s Whiskey Island Partners for $6 million. The park is dedicated to the memory of Moore’s daughter Wendy, who died in a boating accident.

In the week following the opening of Wendy Park, the City of Cleveland held a meeting at the Edgewater Yacht Club on Tuesday, June 28th to ask for ideas on how to use the city-owned former Coast Guard Station on Whiskey Island. Most of those present said they would like to see the station tied to the towpath trail. Key points involved the preservation of the historic structure, making it both a destination and a gateway to the towpath trail. However, a number of those present stressed that the Port Authority’s plan to take over the marina and the subsequent movement of the marina east would destroy much of the value of Whiskey Island as a destination. City officials were asked to support the Cuyahoga County vision for the site.

 

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