Commentary by Paul Cusato
Many Clevelanders have by now visited the renovated Edgewater Beach Park. Whether you’ve taken in Edgewater Live concerts, dipped your toes in the daily manicured beach, watched our spectacular sunsets from the cleverly designed Boat House Pavilion or ridden the recently upgraded and well-lighted bike paths, no one can deny that since the Cleveland Metroparks has taken over the management of the park, it has been elevated to a standard that is now nationally recognized.
While we were all waiting for the improvements of Edgewater Park to be completed, the West Shoreway was also going through a major overhaul of its own. The $100,000,000 project started out with a new exit/entrance to the Shoreway at W. 73rd street to alleviate traffic congestion on Detroit Avenue, partially due to the hundreds of condominiums and apartment units that have been added to Battery Park, and to increase accessibility to the lake from south of the Shoreway.
This construction would be followed by a re-engineering of the infrastructure of the Shoreway itself, which, after even the slightest of downpours over the last 20 years, would leave much of the length of the road from Clifton to W. 45th Street under water. The project included widening the concrete roadway, installing new street lamps and adding a new median with trees and landscaping. Now our high-speed Shoreway would be designated a “Boulevard.”
Neighborhood meetings were held, comments were voiced, questions seemed to be answered, and the work began. At first we saw work move at a very brisk pace, and most of us were encouraged. Then it slowed. Then slowed some more. The updates slowed as well. Answers were not given about the slowdowns or final date of completion. Not much was offered in Matt Zone’s In the Zone paper either. Nearly three years later, around the spring of 2018, with new pavement, trees and landscaping dividing the median from Clifton to W. 28th St. finally completed, we all exhaled a long sigh of relief.
And then — the dying trees. The grass and the weeds. The lack of maintenance. And again, the lack of communication or answers as to what is going on. Matt Zone was quoted from his meeting at the elementary school before work began, that he was assembling a “green corp team” to “work with city officials on a plan for keeping the landscaping healthy and maintained, so once it opens we can be prepared for it.”
Where is that team? Where is that maintenance? Why have such a large percentage of trees died or just fallen over and uprooted themselves? Why have the ornamental grasses that were cut low at the end of the year showing NO signs of re-sprouting — in June? Why was grass planted in the lanes of trees instead of perennials or ornamental grasses where only weeds now live? Who was going to mow grass in a three-foot-wide area with traffic whizzing by? And why has the area of landscaping between the ramps from Clifton Boulevard to the big elm tree flourished, while nearly the rest of the vegetation in the median all the way to W. 28th street has died?
Every day I drive the Shoreway to the east side of the city and every day I look over at the lake, seeing what the beach and the park have developed into, and I say to myself “This is why I live here”!
Now I avoid looking over when heading east because I have to look through brown scraggly trees. Weeds. Dead things. And I’m sad to see it all. No, I’m infuriated! Disgusted! Appalled! We’ve endured years of inconvenience while anticipating our boulevard and we have been slapped in the face. I feel ignored and by the city, ODOT and our councilman.
Will we be made to foot the bill for the mistakes of yet another contractor who won’t stand behind their work? Why has it taken so long to not only get this rectified, but get a believable answer from someone who knows what’s going on? I don’t believe all the soil the entire length of the median is contaminated, as I was just told last week.
This is inexcusable. We deserve better, damn it. You asked us to be patient and we accommodated you. This is what we get in return? Don’t treat us like complacent stooges. We want this resolved and we’ve waited long enough for answers and for action. Do your job and do it now.
Paul Cusato was born and raised on Cleveland’s west side, attended Strongsville High and then Cleveland Institute of Art to study painting after high school. Raced Formula Race cars for many years, was a film maker, and has owned and operated Growler Restorations, a Classic Jaguar Restoration company for over 40 years. He’s passionate about all things Cleveland and wants to see the city thrive.