Cleveland’s burning river has come a long way, with more restoration planned

Northeast Ohioans are notorious for taking our most valuable resource, our lake and waterways, for granted. With each passing year, memories of the river that burned — the Cuyahoga — get further and further away.

GoopTo bring the 1969 event and the state of the river back then into keen focus, just take a look at this photo from the Cleveland Plain Dealer archives.

That’s reporter Richard Ellers after he dipped his hand into the Cuyahoga back in the 1960s. Positively jarring, but that’s the way it was.

Today, however, we kayak and paddleboard upon water that glimmers beneath the dazzling autumn sunshine. We sip chardonnay on the deck of Merwin’s Wharf while basking in the majestic beauty of a passing ore boat. We jog through the Scranton Flats, the gentle ducks gliding by. The state of our river, however, is not nearly as pristine as it may seem.

If we’re going to make a dent in water quality,” says West Creek Conservancy’s (WCC) executive director Derek Schafer, “we have to have a patchwork system, a comprehensive system.” He tags preservation of existing green space, the reclamation of unsustainably developed lands, the restoration of wetlands/riparian areas and retrofitted storm water practices.

What’s next?

Our largest initiative is at Acacia Reservation in Lyndhurst,” says Jennifer Grieser, the Metroparks’ senior natural resources area manager for urban watersheds. “We received four different grants to do 1,500 feet of stream restoration and 10 acres of wetland creation.” The project is slated to break ground in fall 2016 with a June 2017 completion date.

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