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Metroparks Opens New Trail Connecting Old Brooklyn To Zoo

The new park spans approximately 25 acres, including a half-mile, paved, all-purpose trail connecting Pearl Road and Wildlife Way to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo through Brighton Park. [Cleveland Metroparks]
new Cleveland Metroparks trail

Cleveland Metroparks is celebrating the opening of a 25-acre park, part of the Brookside Reservation, dubbed the new Brighton Park in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood.

The park will connect the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to Brookside.

“It’s got a half-mile worth of paved trails and it’s got some natural surface trails with breathtaking views into downtown, but further it connects to the neighborhood and to the treadway connector, which ultimately drops you into the towpath,” said Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman on Ideastream Public Media's the “Sound of Ideas” Tuesday.

Formerly the Henninger landfill, the area was unused for more than a decade.

Located near the corner of Pearl and Henninger roads, the landfill ceased operation in the 1980s, according to a press release from the Metroparks. After nearly 20 years of disuse, the Land Conservancy acquired the property in 2014 through the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund. In 2021, Cleveland Metroparks entered into an agreement for the property, aimed at conservation, park management and protection.

While trees were recently planted for shade along the trails, Cleveland Metroparks plans to maintain open meadows to allow for scenic views and enhance pollinator habitat in the new park.
“The transformation of a disused, vacant lot into a vibrant and natural community greenspace is finally complete,” said Rich Cochran, President and CEO at Western Reserve Land Conservancy. “Brighton Park has been decades in the making. By partnering with Old Brooklyn Development Corporation and Cleveland Metroparks, we’ve created an urban oasis that future generations will appreciate and enjoy. It is a lasting testament to the determination of many individuals who came together as a team to create something truly special.”

Metorparks worked with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, among other community engagement groups, quizzing residents on what they’d like to see when the former landfill was transformed into a public space.

“I grew up on this landfill, playing ‘King of the Mountain’ with my childhood friends,” said former Cleveland City Councilman and Old Brooklyn resident Jim Rokakis. “When I was first elected to City Council in 1978, I knew the residents of this neighborhood wanted this space to be something special. Throughout my career, I searched for ways to turn the landfill into a Cleveland landmark. It is exciting to see the partnerships and perseverance of so many dedicated people coming together to create such a wonderful natural space.”

Funding for the park came from numerous sources according to the Metroparks, including local, state and federal environmental and remediation programs.

Zimmerman describes the current state of the park as “passive.”

“We’ve planted trees, we’ve done all of the different types of remediation that needed to be done and it’s really an opportunity for the community to reembrace an area that’s really has kind of had its back turned on [it]," Zimmerman said.

Sound of Ideas host Rick Jackson quickly prodded Zimmerman into revealing thousands of trees were planted in the park.

The connectivity the new park provides is a major priority for future Metroparks projects, he added, such as potential connections in Independence and Hinckley.

“Most people don’t like to go out and back on the same trail,” Zimmerman said. “They like to have an experience and we continue to look at opportunities that can connect East 9th Street to East 55th Street. We’ve got opportunities to connect Slavic Village going into Downtown.”

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.