The Cleveland Waterfront Coalition, 1981-2015.
We are now part of the Green Ribbon Coalition

The Cleveland Waterfront Coalition was formed in 1981. We have advocated for public access to our waterfront as well as public spaces and parks that are connected. We have also emphasized transparency and best practices in the planning of our waterfront. We have been in the background of late as we funded the Cleveland Lakefront Parks Conservancy ( as our logical successor. We have decided to merge with the Lakefront Parks Conservancy and the Cleveland Lakefront Development Corporation to form the "Green Ribbon Coalition". All groups share the vision of a lakefront that has a continuous (connected) ribbon of green parks and public spaces across the lakefront.

So, 2015 was our final year as an independent organization. Over the course of 34 years, many people have contributed to the evolution of the Cleveland waterfront and the Cleveland Waterfront Coalition. A heartfelt thanks for their efforts. We have tried to preserve the history of the Coalition thru our newsletter archives. We hope to continue making a contribution as part of the Green Ribbon Coalition.

In 2011, we published a "wish list" as an outline of what we thought the waterfront needed. We hoped that the wish list would help the lakefront avoid being a "series of isolated attractions". The primary idea was connecting lakefront parks and public spaces. This is an indispensable aspect of great lakefronts. Since that time, a great deal of progress has been made in connecting the lakefront with the city (north/south) and itself (east/west). One of the biggest challenges on our waterfront is connecting the green spaces that have evolved as we rework the old, mainly industrial waterfront.

We will discuss the improvements on the waterfront shortly but feel we should list areas that need work and are rarely discussed in the public realm. As an independent voice, this is something we are uniquely positioned to do. We hope that we advance the discussion on what we need to do.

Here are areas that are still in need of work:

  1. The connection between Edgewater Park and Wendy Park (Whiskey Island) is still not bike and pedestrian friendly. We are aware that Cleveland Metroparks also thinks there is a great need for upgrading this connnection between their two large westside lakefront parks. This really should have been part of the West Shoreway project but got no traction. Oh well, on to the next round of roadway projects!

    Part of the proposed Lake Link Trail is supposed to bridge the railroad tracks and connect Wendy Park with the West Bank of the Flats. This will be a welcome addition to the westside waterfront. It is great to see the Cleveland Foundation behind this effort.
  2. Getting from Wendy Park to the East Bank of the Flats might require a bridge or could be remedied by a "water taxi". As the East Bank gets completed, a direct connection will become more obvious. You can see Wendy Park from the East Bank but it might take an hour to get there even with the Lake Link Trail. We have advocated for a bridge but that bridge is at least 5 years away and would cost many millions of dollars. A "water taxi" could go to Wendy Park and the West Bank of the Flats for a fraction of the costs and be available next year. It could operate for the seven months or so of the year that this area is busy. Although Metroparks has mentioned this method of connecting us across the river, we have not seen anything in 2015. 2016 could be the year!
  3. The connection between North Coast Harbor and the East Bank of the Flats is not very good but should be an enjoyable and well defined link on our lakefront. North Coast Harbor and the East Bank host some of the biggest attractions on our waterfront. Here is a case where, yes, technically, it is possible to bike or walk from North Coast Harbor to the East Bank but any waterfront that is worthy of its name needs to have a well planned, attractive, and dedicated connection. This is waterfront 101. We had mentioned on our wish list that one possibility was using the RTA Waterfront Line so bikes and pedestrians could share that road/rail line. We doubt this concept will be embraced. Another possibility could use Main Ave. out of the Flats to W. 9th St. and then navigate the area north of Lakeside Ave. to W. 3rd St. where the existing bridge could connect to North Coast Harbor. The area north of Lakeside to the bluffs consists of parking lots, roads, and a freeway entrance that are unattractive to say the least. We are not sure of the status of the proposed pedestrian bridge from Mall C to west of the Rock Hall. We are impressed by the $20 million dollars that the County and City are splitting in their support of what is hoped to be an iconic bridge. $20 million would go a long way on other waterfront projects.
  4. We also note that the connection between E. 55th and North Coast Harbor is not worthy of a great lakefront. There has been some progress in upgrading the North Marginal Rd. connection as well as the South Marginal Rd. We hope these planning efforts bear fruit.


The CIty has stated in its Waterfront District Plan of 2004 that the waterfront is "a series of isolated attractions". Fortunately, the isolated attractions are numerous and varied. Consider what our waterfront would be like if it was better connected. Think about walking from the Rock Hall to the East Bank in twenty minutes. Or getting from the East Bank to the West Bank in 10 minutes via Water Taxi. Or getting from the East Bank to Wendy Park in 10 minutes via Water Taxi. All of a sudden, going to a few different areas over the course of a day or night is part of the attraction of our waterfront. Spending a couple of hours and mixing greenspace (parks), museums, and commercial spaces while being on the edge of a great lake and river is a unique experience. The connections enable our waterfront to be a more diverse and desirable attraction. Our waterfront should be a great regional attraction for city and suburban residents as well as visitors. Better connections are essential to achieving that greatness.


Plenty of progress has been made in improving the Cleveland waterfront. Forgive us for focusing on areas that need improving. The Cleveland Metroparks have been the biggest catalyst on the waterfront. Their understanding of what is needed, ability to deliver new parks (Rivergate), and upgrade spaces is a breath of fresh air on our waterfront. The City continues its North Coast Harbor project. The Shoreway project continues with ODOT doing some heavy lifting. The Flats East Bank is adding residents, vitality, and a sizable public boardwalk. The Cleveland Foundation and Land Studio have forged the Lake Link Trail to connect Wendy Park with another regional asset, the Towpath Trail. The Canalway Partners have mapped out 4 doable stages to complete the portion of the Towpath Trail that is in Cleveland. The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District continues with its project to improve water quality by cutting down on the amount of untreated sewer/stormwater. The Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve (the old Dike 14 Nature Preserve) continues to attract visitors to its unique site for wildlife on our lakefront.


The current lakefront bikeway dates from 1998 (east side) and 2003 (E. 9th to Edgewater Dr. of the west side). Getting a lakefront bikeway was a major accomplishment at the time. Many changes (mainly bringing Wendy Park into the public realm) call for a rethinking of the bikeway to incorporate the Wendy Park to the Flats East Bank to North Coast Harbor connections.


There are efforts to rework the terminal/parking lot area of Burke. This is incremental change. This incremental change is welcome. Our 2011 "Wish List" did not "make suggestions for Burke as we think there are 5 to 10 years of projects" on our list. "What about Burke?!" has been a constant refrain over the years. It is one of the areas that people mention most when the lakefront is discussed. We are reminded by the Plain Dealer that Burke (and Hopkins) are drastically underutilized. Burke is a potentially transformative area on the lakefront. We don't think the issue should be framed as "to close or not to close". It could be the "Venice" of the Great Lakes. It never hurts to dream big. After all, Burke is over 1/3 of the main Cleveland lakefront.

We are at the point where we need to offer a "to be continued". Please Join us at the Green Ribbon Coalition and thanks again!

For CWC,
John W. Veres, Esecutive Director

and the Board:
Pat Nortz, Chair
Nan McIntyre, Treasurer
Ellie Sullivan, Secretary
Bob Gardin
Matt Montecalvo

Many thanks for the years of service by the "scribe" of CWC, Frank Barnett. Frank passed away in 2010. We hope his dream of the potential of our lakefront is realized.

Our mission: to increase public awarenesss of Cleveland's waterfront as a public resource and promote planning and development that provides public access to a waterfront that is inspired by excellence in social, economic, and environmental best practices.