Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cleveland’s Sidaway Bridge

Image from Google Street View

Image from the Historic American
Engineering Record (HAER)
With all the talk about the Cleveland’s Innerbelt Bridge, I thought it was a good time to talk about a bridge in Cleveland that most don’t know about or have never seen. It’s the Sidaway Bridge , Cleveland’s only suspension-style bridge, built in 1931, at 680 feet long. The bridge was designed by Wilbur J. Watson and Associates, Consulting Engineers. It is a pedestrian footbridge, spanning a ravine known as Kingsbury Run, connecting Sidaway Avenue to Kinsman Road, near East 65th Street. (On a side note, Kingsbury Run was also the scene of the area’s infamous, gruesome, and unsolved ”Torso” murders from the 1930s, but I’ll think I’ll pass on that topic. )

The neighborhoods the bridge connected were Slavic Village and the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority’s Garden Valley estates. During the mid-sixties, at a time when racial tensions were running very high in the Cleveland area, someone set fire to the wooden deck, and some planks from the southern end of the bridge were removed.

As the wooden deck is missing, the bridge is no longer used. It is a graceful looking structure, and maybe it can stand long enough for someone to restore it and put it to good use.

Photo HAER

Here is a short video – a little shaky – that someone took of the bridge in December of 2007.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cleveland Metroparks: The Emerald Necklace

Tinker's Creek Gorge, Bedford Reservation

The Cleveland Metroparks public park system is a true jewel of the Cleveland Metropolitan area. It is a series of parks, hiking trails, biking trails, horse trails, nature preserves, scenic wonders, and public golf courses that circle the city of Cleveland. They are nicknamed “The Emerald Necklace” because collectively from above, they look like a necklace of green around the city. They also seem to follow many of the main rivers, creeks, and streams that flow through the area. As a result, these parks also can be great places to fish, bird watch, and see other wildlife. In the winter, they are sometimes filled with cross country skiers, sleds, and toboggans. Of course, they can be the perfect place to have a picnic. It also includes the ever popular Cleveland Zoo . And, if you’re so inclined, you can even do some geocaching . While most of the park areas are in Cuyahoga County, the North Chagrin Reservation is in adjacent Lake County, and the Hinckley Reservation is in Medina County. (Residents of Lake County also have the added benefit of the Lake Metroparks , which are easily accessible to Clevelanders and offer many, if not all of the same benefits.)

According to The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:

The Park Dist. was the brainchild of Wm.A. Stinchcomb (1878-1959). Stinchcomb's efforts secured passage of state legislation permitting the establishment of park districts and the creation of the Cleveland Metropolitan Park Dist. as a separate subdivision of the State of Ohio. The district was created on 23 July 1917, and the first park property was acquired 2 years later. Stinchcomb was appointed director of the district in 1921 and served in that position until 1957. In its early years, the district concentrated its efforts on acquiring land before advancing values and private development placed it beyond reach. During the Depression, federal work projects contributed in a substantial way to the further development of the parks. The district's activities are directed by a Board of Park Commissioners consisting of 3 citizens appointed by the administrative judge of the Probate Court of Cuyahoga County. The district is financed by a tax levy on all real estate in the district and by miscellaneous receipts from district operations, such as golf-course greens fees. The district has acquired more than 18,500 acres of parkland since its inception. The policy of the Board of Park Commissioners has been to maintain the parklands in a natural state, limiting development to that consistent with conservation.

Clevelanders should be ever grateful to Mr. Stinchcomb, who seemed to have the vision to insure area residents would continue to enjoy some of the most beautiful green spaces in the state, if not in the region, for years to come.
Squire's Castle, North Chagrin Reservation
Currently, there are sixteen reservations in the Metroparks district (plus the Zoo), and they are as follows:

Big Creek
Bradley Woods
Euclid Creek
Garfield Park
Mill Stream Run
North Chagrin
Ohio & Erie Canal
Rocky River
South Chagrin
West Creek

There are also seven golf courses:

Big Met Golf Course, Rocky River Reservation, in Fairview Park
Little Met Golf Course, Rocky River Reservation, in Cleveland
Manakiki Golf Course, North Chagrin Reservation, in Willoughby Hills (Lake County)
Mastick Woods Golf Course, Rocky River Reservation, in Cleveland
Shawnee Hills Golf Course, Bedford Reservation, in Bedford
Sleepy Hollow Golf Course, Brecksville Reservation, in Brecksville
Washington Golf Learning Center, Washington Reservation, in Newburgh Heights

While we tend to think of our green spaces as places to visit only when they are green, the parks are open year round and can provide some beautiful sights in the fall and even in the winter months. One of the most anticipated events that occurs every March 15 in the Hinckley Reservation is the annual return of the buzzards. This is when the turkey vultures - also known as buzzards – return to Hinckley on the same day each year. It’s a little like the return of the swallows of Capistrano, with much, much bigger birds. (And thankfully, less of them than the swallows.)

Of course, there is also the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, which also can be visited year round. The Rain Forest is always toasty warm (and humid) . The last time I was there it took a week to de-frizz my hair.

The Cleveland Metroparks system is a natural wonder of the Cleveland area. If you live in the Cleveland area, make a point to visit them all. If you’re just coming for a visit to the area, try to stop by and see some of the sights or maybe just drive through. It may just bring you that moment of inner calm that you’re looking for.

Check out my blog home page for the latest Cleveland information, here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Greenberg Slams Cleveland in the Must Miss Book “Don’t Go There”

I chuckled when I first read the title of the Peter Greenberg book, “Don't Go There!: The Travel Detective's Essential Guide to the Must-Miss Places of the World.” I laughed because in the late 1950s, when I was very little and living on West 50th Street, my dad used to tell a story about something scary at the end of the street at West 50th and Denison, always ending the story with a spooky voice, saying, “ Donnnn’t…. Gooooo There!” It was his way of telling us not to wander off too far. It made me so scared that I don’t think I ever walked out of the yard without a parent with me. But he made his point, we never did wander away from the house.

So when I read the title of Greenberg’s book, I subconsciously heard my father and his dire warnings to stay away. It must mean something, I thought; maybe an inner voice telling me to avoid the book. Imagine my dismay when I heard that in his book, Greenberg put Cleveland on his hit list of cities to avoid.

Regular readers of my blog know how I feel about this city. There are many great things to be found here, great things to do here, and great ways to be entertained here. We know we aren’t perfect, and we know we’re not New York City. But plenty of visitors who come here every year for business or pleasure have plenty of nice things to say about the city and the area. Sure, some don’t have perfect experiences, but they also don’t have perfect experiences in New York City, either. I am sure that there are select areas of New York City that if you singled them out, you wouldn’t want to go there either. For example, in an article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer about the book, Greenberg said:

"I love Jacobs Field [now known as Progressive Field] and I've been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so many times. I'm just saying, guys, know what you're getting into before you go," said Greenberg, who names the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood from East 70th to East 123rd streets and Kinsman Road from East 55th to East 130th streets - hardly top tourist areas - as places to avoid.

It's a shame that people who don't live in the city or spend a lot of time here can get away with bashing the city and then make money off of it. Many use their own contrived criteria to justify their opinions, rarely (if ever) seeking advice or input from the people who actually live here or work in the area. I suppose that Peter Greenberg should have read my blog – which is free by the way - before he wrote his book. One thing is for sure, I won’t be buying his book. And neither should any self-respecting Clevelander. Why put money in his pocket when his commentary may take money out of the pockets of the city and its business owners by reduced tourism?

By the way, I’ll be happy to take suggestions on where we think Greenberg should go.

Further Reading: Article, Cleveland Plain Dealer: Travel writer Peter Greenberg calls Cleveland a 'must-miss' destination

Check out my blog home page for the latest Cleveland information, here.