This Listening Project survey took place from April 1 - June 30, 2014 and focused on the region’s green spaces and natural resources. The survey garnered 130 respondents who answered 13 questions. For a number of questions, respondents selected a response from a series of multiple-choice options and had the opportunity to provide additional responses in comments sections. For other questions, respondents rated the importance of each option within a set of options for the given question. And, for a couple of questions, respondents wrote in responses.
Below are the cumulative results of all the responses, as well as summaries of written comments and direct quotations that best represent those comments.
Over two-thirds of the survey takers responded that they use the region’s parks at least once a week, if not more. Reflecting this frequent attendance, the majority of comments made about the region’s parks and green space were positive:
“My wife and I chose our home partly on its proximity to the Metroparks. As runners, bicyclists, dog owners, and outdoors types of people, we would have long abandoned CLE were it not for the Metroparks.”
“I live in Bath, and I can only describe our park access as an embarrassment of riches. CVNP, Cleveland Metroparks, Summit County Metroparks and community parks are all within easy access.”
There were very few critical comments made about the regional parks, but one worth mentioning made note of poor accessibility:
“My family uses metroparks seldom because there’s not a safe way to walk or bike into the park.”
In contrast to the frequency that respondents visit the region’s parks, almost half of respondents only visit Lake Erie once per year, if ever. Several survey takers noted that they do not use the lake to its full potential:
“I do like to visit the lake shore (neither in nor on, but at the lake shore).
“We live very close to Lake Erie and so see it daily, but do not go IN or ON it very often.”
“Though I have not actually been in or on the Lake recently, I would like to get out into it more.”
Other respondents raised issues that potentially explain why some don’t go in or on the Lake:
“No easy, convenient, inexpensive access to swimmable beaches or to oared watercraft.”
“I don’t think the lake is clean enough to swim in, especially Cleveland beaches.”
Respondents most frequently referenced problems such as lack of maintenance and cleanliness, and poor interconnectivity. Close to one-third of comments mentioned the high rate of litter and vandalism in parks, and in some cases that the facilities are poorly maintained:
“I think the biggest problem is people littering the public parks.”
“People disrespect.... by littering and not picking up their pets waste.”
“THE BATHROOMS at EDGEWATER!!!! Atrocious since Metroparks took it over - terrible experience every time I have to use them.”
The other problem most frequently cited by respondents is the lack of connectivity between parks, and that they are difficult to get to on foot or by public transportation.
“The lakefront parks are mostly drive-to pocket parks for the most part. There is no long flowing trail connecting one to the other. At least not one that brings any significant people foot and pedal traffic.”
“Some sort of interconnectivity between parks would be great as well, whether this interconnectivity is actual (RRR to Berea for example) or some sort of transit service between parks (something like the train in the CVNRA).”
“There is no public transportation to the venues which would allow residents without their own personal transportation to take advantage of all the opportunities.”
The majority of comments related to beach and water pollution as the biggest problems with the lake. Many mentioned litter, industrial runoff, erosion, and invasive species as causes. The other problem most commonly cited was poor accessibility to the lakefront. Respondents noted several reasons they believed contributed to inaccessibility: the railroad, Burke Lakefront Airport, too many fences and blocked right-a-ways, and too much privately owned lakefront property.
“It is by far the shallowest of the Great Lakes, so is more vulnerable to pollution. Asian carp pose a real threat. We need a more publicly accessible waterfront.”
“High bacteria levels too often make swimming at the beaches less than healthy. Litter makes them uninviting. The large amount of private ownership restricts public access to just the few disconnected beaches.”
“Water quality, an almost entirely privately owned shoreline, and alien species, which have completely disrupted the ecosystem.”
Although over 90 percent of respondents agreed with the stated question, they consistently commented that the region’s parks and green spaces are “a” great asset, but not “the” region’s greatest asset:
“They certainly are AMONG the region’s best assets, but there are others, especially arts and culture.”
“A fantastic asset, but our greatest? Doubtful.”
“Not the ‘GREATEST’ regional asset however pretty good.”
The other observation made by respondents is that the region’s parks and green spaces contribute greatly to the high quality of life in Northeast Ohio:
“Green space and parks increase the quality of life in a neighborhood and add to the property value.”
“Protected parks and greenspaces protect water quality and provide healthy recreation opportunities… Parks and trails provide the infrastructure for healthy living, which contributes to reduced health care costs by preventing disease.”
Most respondents commented that while Lake Erie is a great regional asset, it is still being underutilized and is a wasted opportunity to draw people to the region.
“A largely privatized shoreline will always limit Lake Erie’s ability to be an asset to the larger region. Nevertheless, it is a huge benefit that still has unrealized potential.”
“An abundance of fresh water is very valuable. This is underutilized.”
“The lake gives us ready access to fresh water, an increasingly precious commodity that is woefully underappreciated.”
The survey provided respondents a number of options from which they could provide specific comments. The options included: Trade and Transportation, Industry, Environmental Impact, and Aesthetics and History.
For Trade and Transportation, what came to mind most frequently for respondents related to the Port Authority and shipping. Many noted that the Port and increased shipping lanes broaden access to the international market for import/export opportunities.
For Industry, there were two different themes among respondents. For most, raw materials such as steel, iron ore, and salt mining came to mind. Almost an equal number of respondents noted that both commercial and recreational fishing is what came to mind with respect to Industry.
For Environmental Impact, what came to mind most frequently for respondents related to pollution of lake water. Most comments indicated that pollution in Lake Erie is still widespread, particularly with industrial runoff and sewage overflows. On the other hand, some who referenced water pollution felt that it has improved some over the years.
For Aesthetics and History, most respondents referred to the beauty of the lake. Related to the natural beauty of the lake and surrounding area, some commented that it’s underappreciated and underutilized. A few other survey takers commented that the beauty has historically been used for commercial gain, and not as a natural resource for public use.
Overall, respondents felt that ideastream has paid average attention to issues related to the lake and regional parks, but a majority also commented that ideastream could be doing more.
“As our greatest asset, we can do more to promote the good and how to be better.”
“The number of possible stories and programs that could be developed is huge. These are often underappreciated assets for Northeast Ohio and need more attention.”
One respondent noted where he felt media attention was lacking:
“Please focus on reporting the problems of lawn applications (pesticides and herbicides), litter and animal wastes ending up in the lake. These are things that can be addressed by every individual– and together we can have a large impact– whether that be negatively or positively.”
The most frequent comment made by respondents suggested more on location reporting and contact with park officials and the public that frequents them. Related to this, many respondents suggested some form of series that highlights a different regional park each time, and discusses the different origins and attractions and highlights events:
“How about a series of tours of the parks and open spaces in the region to showcase the variety conservation organizations and agencies of all sizes that work to provide these public places.”
“More features on what makes them so special… I would like to see each park featured for a program in a series, e.g.. each metropark – what makes it unique and special – a real celebration of the emerald necklace and the forest city.”
“Our region has many minor parks. I could imagine a program like “Dinners, Dumps, and Dives” looking at little-known parks. “Parks, Places, and Preserves”?