Photos From The Cuyahoga50 Celebration Saturday In The Flats

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By Matthew Richmond

It would be hard to argue that the Cuyahoga River hasn’t come a long way. Low points were the famous fires in 1952 and 1969.

As Bill Skowronski, formerly of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency put it to CBS News recently: “You can probably name just about any liquid chemical and it was being dumped in the river. So you'd have oil, gasoline, kerosene, acids, caustic materials." 

But there’s been good news recently. The river remains on the EPA’s Areas of Concern, but three of the ten problems that put it there - its physical look, fish restrictions and public access - have improved enough to no longer be considered impairments.

The thousands who attended Saturday’s Cuyahoga 50 celebration at Rivergate Park in the Flats and the groundbreaking of the last section of Towpath Trail to be built in Cleveland would agree with the EPA.

On this beautiful summer morning, paddlers launched from the docks outside Merwin’s Wharf for a race up the river and back. Families played in the park and bands performed on a stage set up next to the 15-year-old building housing the bustling Cleveland Rowing Foundation.

“We’ve all seen Marvin Greene’s picture where his hand goes into the Cuyahoga River and it comes out black,” said Kurt Princic of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency during a groundbreaking for the last piece to the Towpath Trail in Cleveland. “That’s what folks were dealing with back in the day.”

The attendance list at that groundbreaking, just down the road in the Flats from the celebration at Rivergate Park, was a testament to how far the burning river has come.

Two members of congress, the county executive, mayor, multiple state representatives and the regional administrator from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency all gave speeches celebrating the river.

Ohio EPA declared it safe to eat fish from the river, one time a month, earlier this year. The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District unveiled a pump station this weekend that will eliminate sewer runoff into the river.

And the next project, according to Tim Donovan of Canalway Partners, is to build a 20-acre park at Settlers Landing.

“The next project is Canal Basin Park. The Towpath has to end someplace special,” said Donovan.

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