Community celebrates completion of Zone Recreation Center’s outdoor renovations
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, September 2012) On August 4th, 2012, a planning process that began a decade ago came to fruition with a ribbon cutting for the $3 million dollar outdoor renovations on the 22 acres of the Michael J. Zone Recreation Center grounds. The newly renovated outdoor grounds of the recreation center include two baseball fields (one for adults and one for little league and T-Ball), 2 soccer fields, tennis courts, a handball court, a splash park, two dog parks, a skate park, playground, water spray park, plaza area with a stage and pavilion and nature trails which include a 3/4 mile loop around the park that includes fitness stations. The basketball courts have been refurbished. Three hundred new trees have been planted. The grounds now include benches and tables with checkerboards.
In announcing the completion of the renovations, Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO), which worked with the community to create an EcoVillage in the area surrounding Zone Recreation Center, praised the community’s hard work in creating the EcoVillage and said “the community was a major player in the conception, design and implementation of the project.” In describing the project, DSCDO said “This site is even more than an active recreation park; it is a demonstration site for environmental stewardship. The renovations are a national model for ecological urban green space integrated with traditional recreation enhanced by on site treatment of storm water, permaculture, and native vegetation, areas of natural habitat restoration, wetlands and trails to RTA’s Rapid Station.”
At a ribbon cutting ceremony held on the stage in the outdoor plaza, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson called the renovations “an investment into the city and its quality of life.” He said the renovations would bring recreation to the city in a sustainable way help to make a Cleveland neighborhood, a neighborhood of choice. Jackson said when creating a project like this, “it helps when you have a great councilman. Councilman Matt Zone and his family have been working on this for years,” said Jackson.
Councilman Zone noted that the planning process for the outdoor renovations began in the fall of 2002 as part of the EcoVillage planning process. He noted David Beach and EcoVillage Project Director Mandy Metcalf for their involvement in the 3 1/2 year planning process that Zone said included four community meetings and hundreds of comments. Zone said with input from the community, Architect Jim McKnight completed a plan for the site in May of 2005.
Despite all the planning efforts, Councilman Zone said the plan was in jeopardy in 2006. Bureaucrats in the City’s Parks and Recreation Department were balking at implementing the design, complaining the many varied surfaces would be too hard to maintain. Councilman Zone said he met with Mayor Jackson to explain the plan to him. After hearing about the plan and the vast amount of community input that went into creating the plan, Zone said Mayor Jackson told me “Councilman, we are doing this project.”
Zone said that in 2007, Mayor Jackson began the process of allocating $2.5 million from the Parks and Recreation Department’s capital budget for the project. Councilman Zone had already accumulated a half million in Parks and Recreation Capital funds for the project during years when the Parks and Recreation Department used to allocate a portion of the capital funds to each council ward.
Zone noted that in July of 2011, with a budget securely in place, the $3 million dollar construction project began, and now a decade after the planning process began, the project is complete. Zone then introduced Dr. Wendy Kellogg, a professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Studies at Cleveland State University whose research involves methods of combating urban sprawl. Kellogg says a conversation with David Beach of EcoCity Cleveland (now the GreenCityBlueLake Institute) led to a feasibility study to create an EcoVillage in Cleveland. Kellogg says the strongest proposal came from the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization and resulted in the partnership between DSCDO and the EcoVillage.
Councilman Zone shared a little history of the site. In the late 1960’s the land that Zone Recreation now sits on was set aside for a highway tie-in for a proposed State Route 3 — connecting other area highways to I-90. Matt Zone, said his father, then Councilman Michael Zone, joined with neighborhood activists such as May Dugan, Helen Smith and Connie Smiddie to oppose the proposed highway. Zone says his father, who served in Cleveland City Council from 1960 -1974, was able to lobby the State legislature to kill the legislation for the highway. Matt Zone says his father then became an advocate for building a quality west side recreation center on the site. In the late 1970s when the recreation center was built, Mayor George Voinovich, named the center Michael Zone Recreation Center, in honor of the long time councilman and advocate for the site.
David Beach of the GreenCityBlueLake Institute said, “Cities rise and fall based on millions of decisions.” Beach said the decision to build an EcoVillage in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood was “a decision based on hope.” He noted that the EcoVillage was a national model and building neighborhoods like this that are bike-able and walk-able with green spaces like the new grounds of Zone recreation where children can connect to nature will bring hope to the whole planet.
Councilman Zone pointed out some of the features of the grounds of the recreations center. He noted the Sustainability Community initiative of the City of Cleveland. He said the permeable pavers, bio swells and garden areas built into the grounds of the recreation center would retain water in the water table under the grounds and keep thousands of gallons from entering the sewer system. Zone pointed out the state of the art playground facility with a soft surface that the kids won’t get hurt on. Zone said the recreation center now has three different parking areas with a net increase in parking spaces. He said that, when all is complete, the recreation center wouldl have recycling bins and trash receptacles. He said that the City of Cleveland sets aside 1.5% of the cost of each construction project for public art and that residents can look forward to the creation of sculptures for the site.
City of Cleveland Parks and Recreation Department Director Michael Cox talked about the amenities and design of this park that, Cox said, “are unmatched all over the state of Ohio.”
Executive Director Jeff Ramsey of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, Executive Director Eric Wobser of Ohio City Inc and Program Director Megan Meister of the Stockyard, Clark-Fulton and Brooklyn Center Community Development Office came to the stage and reached out to the crowd about how their ongoing support would be needed to maintain grounds at Zone Recreation Center. Ramsey noted the ongoing support of community members. He said, “Whenever we ask for help. You always say yes.”
A number of individuals and organizations were brought forward to honor for their contributions to the project and to Zone Recreation Center including all of the staff that have served at the Recreation Center over the past 30 years. Matt Zone recognized members of his family present for the ceremonies. The architect, the general contractor and LAND Studios were all singled out for their contributions to the project.
In the conclusion, Councilman Zone joined with a group of young people to cut the ribbon. Once the ribbon was cut, the water spray park was turned on and children flocked to enjoy the refreshing water, others went to climb on the playground equipment, or swing on the swings. Adrian Maldonado organized a basketball tournament; a skateboard demonstration was also planned for the festivities. Two teams from the Ohio City T-Ball league were present to play the first game on the Little League and T-Ball field. A couple of tennis players were trying out the new courts. Out front the Gordon Square Farmers Market offered produce and beverages to those in attendance. In front of the outdoor pavilion, two instructors began leading a Zumba group. A short time after the ribbon cutting, people were asked to bring their dogs for the opening of the dog parks at the far eastern part of the grounds off West 53rd Street.