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After years of cleanup and delays, community's persistence at Clark Field finally pays off

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Posted at 5:36 PM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-08 18:32:33-04

CLEVELAND — Cleveland city leaders along with longtime neighborhood supporters will break ground Saturday on the much-anticipated, long-envisioned re-birth of Clark Field in Tremont. The nearly $3 million project to build the new park, which was preceded by a $5.5 million environmental cleanup of the property, will bring a state-of-the-art playscape for children of all abilities, a splash pad, dog park, sports fields and more.

Built in the shadows of Cleveland’s steel mills — which later nearly ruined it — Clark Field’s history dates back to the early 1950s after the City of Cleveland allocated $75,000 to build a football stadium and two baseball diamonds. Two high schools would later host their home games at the stadium, which helped to propel Clark Field forward as a venerated piece of Cleveland’s history. As Tremont’s population and Cleveland’s population overall began to wane, the public’s use of Clark Field waned as well as the once well-kept space soon became the site of illegal dumping.

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After the turn of the millennium, neighbors had enough. They banned together to clean the park up and inject new life into it. Together they formed Friends of Clark Field.

If not for the group’s work — and specifically the work of resident Beverly Wurm — Saturday’s groundbreaking on a new-and-improved Clark Field may not be possible.

“I was a brand new councilman. [Wurm] looked me in the eyes and she said I need you to get this done before I die,” Councilman Kerry McCormack said. “Bev is alive and well and she’ll be here for the groundbreaking so I’m excited we’ll be able to do that.”

The work of the Friends of Clark Field hit a snag in 2015 when the City of Cleveland stopped issuing permits for Clark Field in order to conduct soil testing for harmful and toxic chemicals. The testing revealed elevated levels of lead, arsenic and other toxic or carcinogenic materials.

After years of neighbors pleading for funding, the U.S. EPA began the $5.5 million remediation of the superfund site, removing the top two feet of soil at the site and replacing it with clean fill. The remediation work was completed in late 2020.

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After the EPA finished its work, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District had a major infrastructure project of its own, pushing the construction of the new park back to 2022.

“It was a huge effort from the neighborhood to make sure this has happened,” McCormack said. “We’ve had residents in this community that have advocated for these types of parks for years and years and years. “We know these parts of the city of Cleveland have been mixed-use for many, many decades. What’s so exciting is that we’re getting to the point where we’re taking these sites and really re-using safely — and in an environmentally friendly way — to bring great parks to our community.”

The new Clark Field, estimated to be $2.7 to $2.9 million, will feature a long list of amenities to one of the city’s most densely-populated neighborhoods. The new attractions including basketball and tennis courts, a dog park, sports fields, a splash pad as well as other playscape equipment for children of all ability levels.

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“Kids that are differently-abled will have just as much access as any other kid to use the facilities,” McCormack said. “This is going to really be a world class park for our neighborhoods, especially coming out of the pandemic.”

Tremont resident Michael Grimes, who lives within a short walk of the new park, is beyond excited for what’s to come.

“I’m already ready, especially for a basketball court,” Grimes said. “There’s nothing really around here as far as [parks are concerned]. I’m really looking forward to that.”

Saturday’s groundbreaking is scheduled for 10 a.m.