CH Historical Society urges NEORSD to preserve Shaker Lakes

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s (NEORSD) preferred plan regarding the Shaker Lakes, costing $28.3 million, removes the historic Shaker dam at Horseshoe Lake, built in 1852, and replaces the entire lake with stream paths and riparian channels. Lower Lake, built in 1837 and more vulnerable to flooding, would then be dredged and its dam rebuilt with wider and higher armoring. If the present dam and wooden walkway at Green Lake is any indication, the marvelous sandstone facing on the present Lower Lake bridge and spillway would most likely be reduced or removed entirely, as we are told the new dam will look significantly different. This plan also seriously limits and alters flourishing wildlife habitats.

NEORSD’s alternative plan, costing $34 million, would dredge both lakes, repair and reinforce both dams, and presumably retain more of the historic stonework of both the two dams and their stone-parapeted bridges. We are told that NEORSD cannot justify this option’s increased cost of $6 million, though we understand it has a $1 billion budget for future projects. We strongly urge an adjustment in NEORSD’s priorities.

Both Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights have been built-out since the 1930s, without substantive flooding issues at the lakes. Both cities are considering plans to upgrade their old sewer systems, and looking for federal money to help defer the costs. If increased stormwater due to climate change can be diverted from the Shaker Lakes in the future, then it seems profligate not to preserve both the lakes and the historic stone infrastructure. 

Our cities’ home values are augmented by the fabulous aesthetic and recreational uses afforded by these prime assets—the Shaker Lakes. Surely more time and effort can be spent on obtaining financing, especially since we have already waited several years without a long-term proposal from NEORSD. Now is not the time to embark on a plan that would destroy one lake and brutalize another, eventually becoming a detriment to one of the most marketable and beautiful features of our two cities.

We strongly urge preserving, to the highest level, the beauty and integrity of these habitats and historic dams, lakes, and stone spillways and bridgework. We owe it to our predecessors and posterity to preserve the environmental and aesthetic qualities of these lakes and dams. Let us not squander such remarkable inheritance.

Nine CHHS associates

This opinion was signed and endorsed by Ken Goldberg, president of the Cleveland Heights Historical Society, and eight other current and former members of the society: Michael Madorsky, treasurer; William Hopkins, assistant treasurer; Stephen Holowicki, secretary; Charles Owen, founder and trustee; Korbi Roberts, trustee; John Wheeler, trustee; Angela Bair, former trustee; William Barrow, former trustee.

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Volume 14, Issue 8, Posted 8:05 AM, 07.27.2021