Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve
What type of wildlife and plant life can I expect to see at the Preserve?
Over time, researchers and other visitors have identified more than 280 species of birds, 42 species of butterflies, 16 species of mammals (including red fox, coyote, mink, and deer) 2 species of reptiles, 26 Ohio plant species (including wildflowers and grasses) and 9 species of trees and shrubs. The diverse mix of habitats includes grasslands, a forest area, meadows, mudflats, shrub lands, and wetlands.
How big is Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve?
It is 88 acres with 1.2 miles of shoreline. Trails total over 2.5 miles.
What was this site before it was a nature preserve?
It was a man-made land mass created over time within dike walls along the lakeshore. From 1979 to 1999 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed the site – then known as Dike 14 – as a disposal facility for sediment that was dredged annually from the Cuyahoga River to maintain the shipping channel for vessels carrying raw materials and goods to companies dependent on waterborne transportation. The Corps confined the sediments in this way so that if they were contaminated the health of the lake would not be harmed. More than 6 million cubic yards of sediment was placed in Dike 14 before it was closed to dredge material in 1999.
Then nature took hold and transformed the site into a wildlife haven. A subsequent risk assessment showed it can safely be used for environmental education. The Port Authority manages the site and in 2012 opened it as the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve to provide daily public access to this unique civic asset. The Port Authority is also pursuing opportunities to treat sediment not as waste, but as a resource that can be used to benefit the community in a variety of ways from capping brownfields to creating aquatic habitats.
Is it true that ships were sunk at this site?
Yes. In 1962 – years before Dike 14 was built — two old ore freighters were sunk off shore to create a breakwall to protect the beach at Gordon Park and the Inner City Yacht Club. When the Army Corps of Engineers built the dike walls, it enclosed the ships as well as an approximately 10-acre landfill. The location of the freighters is what gives the Preserve’s “beak,” or overlook area, its pointed shape.
Why is the Preserve considered an Important Bird Area?
Audubon Ohio designated the Preserve as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it provides essential habitat for birds. The Preserve is located at the intersection of four migratory bird routes: Lake Erie, the shore of Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga River Valley, and the Doan Brook Valley. IBAs are sites that provide essential habitat where, for example, birds can breed, rest during migration, or spend the winter. IBAs typically are discrete sites that are separated from the surrounding landscape and may be public or private, protected or unprotected land.
For more information about Audubon’s IBA designation click here.
Why aren’t pets allowed in the Preserve?
The presence of both pets and wildlife at the site could pose risks for both. It is important for the health of the animals and birds taking sanctuary in the Preserve that the site be maintained for their benefit. In addition wild animals often view the family pet as a predator and could take defensive action that puts both at risk. Finally, pets are not permitted at the Preserve to limit the spread of ticks from the site and the diseases they may carry.
Are bicycles allowed in the Preserve?
To safeguard the trails and animals that take refuge here, bicycles are not permitted. The Preserve is intended for observing nature, research, and education and is limited to passive recreation. Visitors can ride to the Preserve and park their bikes in designated racks located by the entrance gate and near the Ohio Department of Natural Resources park office.
Is there a plan to control invasive plant species?
Cleveland Lakefront Preserve has become naturalized and sustains a remarkable diversity of plants. Non-native species that were not known to occur in Ohio prior to the European settlement in the mid 1700s are part of the diversity on site. About a quarter of the plants growing in Ohio did originate in other parts of the continent or the world, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. A portion of these non-native plants are invasive and threaten the biodiversity of the Preserve by aggressively crowding out other plants and sources of food for wildlife. The Port Authority plans to incorporate invasive-species management into long-term planning for the Preserve.
What research has been done at the Preserve?
The Collaborative has also partnered on research work done by Baldwin Wallace College, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Ohio Lepidopterists and the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. That research has included the following: surveys of amphibians, invertebrates, and snakes; a plant inventory; a long-term butterfly monitoring project; and, a bird-banding project to better understand migratory and resident bird populations.