Make Horseshoe Lake more like nature center
I am excited to hear about an option to replace the dam at Horseshoe Lake, because I feel it represents a serious effort to mitigate climate change and the impact of extreme weather events that we’re seeing with more regularity, such as flooding of our local watersheds.
By removing the dam, we open up the possibility of Doan Brook supporting a more diverse ecosystem, along with more stormwater capture and a more equitable use of limited resources.
The city will need the $34 million that is estimated [as the cost] to replace the dam if we are to address the nearly $1 billion of infrastructure work ahead to meet the stormwater and sewer separation goals in the EPA consent decree signed by the city.
I am aware that some want to spend $34 million because of the history of Doan Brook. I feel lthere are other priorities and that the history can be honored with an exhibit at the Shaker Historical Society.
We are facing a historic moment, and how we react will determine whether we have a future that is secure, sustainable and equitable—secure in the peace of mind that the banks of our lakes and rivers are functional and won’t fail; sustainable because a wetlands approach, like the one at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, is a nature-based solution. The wetlands and boardwalk at the Nature Center are an example of how to balance the needs of community access and nature. It’s more sustainable because a wetlands ecology will support a diverse group of species, both plants and animals.
It’s important that we recognize when nature is a force that cannot be channelized or tamed into a small space, as we saw with the floods that wiped away whole villages in Germany this summer. The reaction from the villagers is inspiring. They want to rebuild in a way that respects nature; that means not building up, paving over and hardening the walls of their watershed.
Finally, it will be more equitable because, as the headwater communities of Doan Brook, Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights have a responsibility to the communities downstream, in University Circle and the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland. They have been flooding with more regularity. It would be a waste if we were not protecting the investment of the Doan Brook Interceptor Tunnel that the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is building, at great expense, by doing all we can, through green infrastructure, to slow stormwater from reaching those tunnels.
Also, as our rates for water and sewer have climbed, it starts to disadvantage low-to-moderate income communities in Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and Cleveland.
For these reasons, I think we should all be excited about the new vision that has emerged to address the failed dam at Horseshoe Lake. Let’s protect both people and ecosystems, and do it in a way that’s sustainable and equitable, now and for the future.
Marc Lefkowitz is a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights and a sustainability advocate. He has served on the city's Transportation Advisory Committee, the board of Home Repair Resource Center, and is currently a member of the Citizen's Advisory Committee. His son attends the Heights schools.