People utilizing revamped river access in Brecksville

by Emily Chesnic

One way Cuyahoga Valley National Park officials determine how much the public appreciates a completed project is by monitoring the foot traffic to the upgraded area, says Pamela Barnes, the park’s Public Information Officer.

Based on the number of individuals now using the new water trail access at Station Road Bridge Trailhead in Brecksville, they view the improvements done as advantageous, she said.

“What made us realize how important it was for people is that as soon as the work was finished, they were immediately using it,” said Barnes. “They are grateful for this. There are a lot of people enjoying the river.”

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is responsible for the creation and removal of river access points on park property, among other responsibilities, she said.

Following last year’s removal of the Brecksville Dam to make the river free flowing, the water levels changed, which was not surprising, said Barnes.

“Once the dam came out, the water level was a lot lower and presented quite an issue for accessing the river there,” she said.

This problem led to the project completed in July to protect people from scaling an incline to get to the water. Barnes said existing stairs came out as part of the dam project, creating an unsafe situation.

“So, the National Park went in and brought in some heavy equipment and created a gradual slope down to the river to make it a lot easier to get to the river,” she said.

The work completed fits in with the existing character of the Station Road Bridge area and the experience of the park, said Barnes.

To revamp the access point, the park used natural materials and not added structure to go along with the environment of the park, she said.

Since the work wrapped up in Brecksville, the spot now is busier than ever, said Barnes.

People are taking advantage of the river more than in years past, especially since the USA Today, in March, named the Cuyahoga River as the best place in North America for urban kayaking, she said.

To continue to better the experience, the dam in Brecksville had to come out, she said.

The dam was an obstacle to kayakers who ventured down the river, often heading to the city of Cleveland, she said.

“Our river really is a poster child for the environmental movement. It was once polluted but now is a designation. It has been an exciting turn around. People are enjoying the river,” Barnes said.

She asks those who paddle the river to understand the dangers surrounding the activity and to never go alone. Barnes said kayakers should wear life jackets and check conditions at before going in the water, as new obstacles can pop up.

The improved river access point at the Station Road Bridge is not just being used by kayakers, however. She said people are venturing to the access point to get a closer look at the water, too. Individuals like to sit at the delta pebble beach area there especially, Barnes said.

“Chippewa Creek empties there, so people who are not paddlers are enjoying being next to the river,” she said.

Moving forward, Cuyahoga Valley National Park will be working to improve other access points as part of a community access plan, with the park engaging the public in the process to establish it, said Barnes.

“We are working on a plan to address everything from crowding to how people find their way around to equitable access and more. This will be a multi-year process,” she said. ∞