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Cleveland Harbor Eastern Embayment Resilience Study (CHEERS)

resiliency, ecology, open space planning, equity, community engagement
TYPE
COASTAL RESILIENCY PLANNING
Location
Cleveland, OH

The Cleveland Harbor Eastern Embayment Resilience Study (CHEERS) was a year-long community planning process to study and create a plan that addresses the physical, ecological, and social resilience of the Eastern Lake Erie shoreline.

The study seeks to provide greater public access, connect residents in underserved neighborhoods to their lakefront, and ensure the long-term sustainability and resilience of the lakeshore and its communities. Impacts of climate change required that the plan accounted for dynamic conditions over the next decades with strategies to allow the shoreline to adapt and preserve habitat for critical species while creating a buffer that protects the shore from future storm events.

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CHEERS envisions returning the hardened edge of the east side lakefront into a natural shoreline with places for people and nature.

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Cleveland’s Eastern Lakefront has played a significant role in the history of the City – from aiding in the early industrialization and economic prosperity to providing waterfront access and recreation for generations of Clevelanders. Though the area is still home to a few publicly-accessible parks and recreation spaces, much of the shore is dominated by industrial uses, infrastructure, and private residences and properties. 

In addition to land use challenges, this area is seeing the impact of climate change in water level fluctuations and more frequent and extreme storm events, exposing communities and infrastructure to threats of erosion, wave surges, flooding, and

wind damage, presenting major risks to the ecological health ofthe area as well as impacts to community resiliency and safety.

After launching engagement virtually due to the challenges brought by the COVID-19 Pandemic, WRT was able to host socially-distanced engagement events to help shape the future of the lakefront. During the year-long planning process, the project team engaged over 1,500 community members and stakeholders. Community engagement and coalition building were critical components of the planning process and essential to the creation of a community-driven resiliency plan.

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WRT JOINED THE 'BIRD NERDS', A GROUP OF STUDENT BIRDERS ON A WALK AROUND THE LAKE TO LEARN HOW THEY ENGAGE WITH THE COASTAL HABITAT.

CHEERS represents a key opportunity to connect communities that have long been separated from their lakefront while creating a resilient shoreline for future generations.

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CHEERS outlines both short-term and longer-term interventions along the lakefront. It envisions returning the hardened edge of Cleveland’s east side lakefront to a natural shoreline with places for people and nature. Dredge from the Cuyahoga River will be used to create 76 acres of parkland, enhance in-water and near-shore coastal habitat areas, mitigate the impacts of the highway on existing parkland,

protect infrastructure, and create a sheltered embayment where visitors can safely access the lake. The final plan was unanimously approved in October 2021 by the Cleveland City Planning Commission. Shortly following, The CHEERS partnership was awarded $985,000 by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support the design and engineering for the first phase of the plan.

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CHEERS is being embraced with a sense of urgency among its partners – the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Metroparks, Port of Cleveland, Black Environmental Leaders Associate, the Ohio  Department of Natural Resources, and the Ohio Department of Transportation. It tackles a variety of issues and leverages existing assets and opportunities to Embrace the Lake as an asset for future generations.