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“The Cut” is a weekly reporters notebook-type essay by an Ideastream Public Media content creator, reflecting on the news and on life in Northeast Ohio. What exactly does “The Cut” mean? It's a throwback to the old days of using a razor blade to cut analog tape. In radio lingo, we refer to sound bites as “cuts.” So think of these behind-the-scene essays as “cuts” from Ideastream's producers.

Before the falls are free: Let's enjoy Gorge Metro Park while we can

Cuyahoga Falls resident Bradley Pierce carries his 4-year-old son, Logan, down to an overlook area near the Gorge Dam in Gorge Metro Park on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Cuyahoga Falls resident Bradley Pierce carries his 4-year-old son, Logan, down to an overlook area near the Gorge Dam in Gorge Metro Park on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022.

Right next to the Cuyahoga River in Cuyahoga Falls, Gorge Metro Park is known for its stunning dam, where water cascades down into the river with urgency.

On any given day, you can make the short trek out from the parking lot and down dozens of wooden stairs to the dam's overlook. There you can find families and hikers staring in awe at the dam's beauty.

There's only one problem: The dam is blocking a free flowing waterfall that hasn't been seen in more than a century.

Well actually, there's more than one problem, according to Free the Falls, a stakeholder committee dedicated to removing the dam. Dams like these that block the free flow of the river are awful for the health of the river and the environment. In fact, the Gorge Dam is one of the largest unresolved water quality problems on the Cuyahoga River.

That's why the United States Environmental Protection Agency, along with other partners, is working to remove the dam, uncovering the natural waterfall.

The U.S. EPA hopes to start work next spring, which will include removing nearly 900,000 cubic yards of sediment that's been collecting for more than a century behind the dam. This is expected to take about two years, according to the U.S. EPA, as sediment is removed and placed in a disposal area. Then, if everything goes well, the dam can come down in 2026.

I'm sure you can imagine that an active remediation site won't be the safest place to go on a weekend hike. (I'm also told it will be loud and potentially bad smelling, although the U.S. EPA says it will be monitoring noise and odor to ensure it doesn't impact residents).

Park officials said Gorge Metro Park will likely be closed for three to four years while all this work is happening, though work on the rest of the park won't stop because it's closed. Park officials plan to complete a master plan of the park, including reassessing the trails and amenities offered, as well as doing any needed upkeep.

I'm excited for the park to get a facelift, and I'm even more excited to see the waterfall that's been hiding behind the dam. But I'd be lying if I said I won't miss the park while it's closed. It's my favorite of the Summit Metro Parks. I love hiking along the Cuyahoga River, taking in the views of the dam and the river and valley's natural beauty. The park is also home to beautiful, natural rock ledges and caves, which are so fun to look at and explore.

That's why I will be enjoying the park while I still can, and I encourage you to as well. Last weekend, this enjoyment included basking in the sunlight on a surprisingly warm autumn day, getting fresh air on the river's edge and watching a family of five deer explore the valley with a group of hikers. I've found there's a special bond on the trail after standing with complete strangers for more than 10 minutes in silence, watching deer less than five feet away from you.

I will always encourage people to get outside and enjoy the parks in Northeast Ohio, but I especially encourage you to make the trip down to Gorge Metro Park.

This one's special.

"The Cut" is featured in Ideastream Public Media's weekly newsletter, The Frequency Week in Review. To get The Frequency Week in Review, The Daily Frequency or any of our newsletters, sign up on Ideastream's newsletter subscription page.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.