CHGT and partners work to restore Caledonia ravine
In 1991, thanks to the dedicated efforts of then-council member Barbara Boyd, Cleveland Heights secured a 99-year lease on a neglected parcel—used, in part, as dumping ground—in the Caledonia section of the city and converted it into a park. Today, it’s known as Barbara H. Boyd Park.
The property straddles Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland, with a southern border flanked by a stunning gorge carved by West Nine Mile Creek. Years of neglect and illegal dumping diminished the ravine’s health and resilience.
In May 2021, the Cleveland Heights Green Team (CHGT) became aware of the ravine’s condition as it canvassed opportunities for green-space beautification within the city limits.
Since then, CHGT has partnered with community leaders from both East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights, and with organizations that include the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), Bluestone, Heights Tree People, and the Trust for Public Land (TPL), to develop a comprehensive plan to restore the ecological balance of the ravine and to invite community members to become active stewards and beneficiaries of this natural asset.
According to CH Council Member Davida Russell, “The condition of the ravine is a microcosm of the problems that neighborhoods in the northern part of the city experience due to systemic underinvestment and disinvestment in the community. We can do better, and we need to do better.” In the case of the ravine, Russell suggested that pervasive illegal dumping in a residential zone happens because ordinances are not enforced and there is no public oversight.
Studies suggest that, in addition to the well-documented physical and mental health benefits of green-space access, property values can increase up to 20 percent for homes adjacent to or fronting a “passive park” area.
“The framework for this project is rooted in the intersection of environmental and social justice,” explained Roy Larick, a leading expert in urban environment issues and founder of Bluestone. “We recognize that the ravine’s condition and its adjacent green spaces are deeply intertwined with social and economic factors impacting the community. In addition to regular clean-up efforts by a group of committed volunteers, our most important work is done in partnership with, and involvement of, the community.”
Recently, engineers from NEORSD assessed the ravine’s structural health.
Participants in the 2023 Healing our Waters: Great Lakes Conference, held in Cleveland Oct. 12 and 13, conducted a tour of the ravine focused on the connection between underserved communities and environmental health.
The Lake Erie Protection Fund is supporting a feasibility study for improving ravine water resources.
TPL chose Caledonia Elementary School, located at the top of the ravine, as the site of its first Community Schoolyard in Ohio.
“This project will not only benefit the students but the entire community, as the playground will be accessible to all after school and on weekends,” said Kaela Geschke, Parks for People director at TPL Ohio. “We see this playground as a catalyst for meaningful and scalable change. Green spaces that are designed by the students and neighbors foster community ownership. They tend to be more widely used, leading to cleaner and safer surroundings. They enhance the community’s well-being and quality of life while protecting habitats and ecosystems. In this scenario everyone wins.”
The Community Schoolyard will be completed in 2024.
Catalina Wagers is a resident of Cleveland Heights' Fairfax neighborhood, and is co-founder of Cleveland Heights Green Team.