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As Cleveland's diversity grows, so does its cultural gardens

Posted at 5:06 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 19:58:46-04

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Every time she traveled along Martin Luther King Drive from I-90, Qaisra Haider would hear her children ask the same question.

"They're like 6, 7 years old, looking out the car windows going, 'Mom, where is the Pakistani garden?'" said Haider.

It may have taken more than 20 years, but soon Haider will finally be able to show them.

"It's unfortunate that they're now in their thirties, and I'm finally getting to it," said Haider.

Pakistan is one of nearly a dozen new countries being added to the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.

Cleveland Cultural Gardens

"Cleveland is diverse and that's what makes it great," said Haider.

Its residents represent 120 different cultures.

"More than a third of them are reflected in the gardens. It does tell the story of who we are," said Lori Ashyk, Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation.

The gardens celebrate the contributions of immigrant groups in Northeast Ohio.

"They really reflect Cleveland's history, they've been here for over 100 years," said Ashyk.

The 174-acre site hasn't seen this kind of interest in new gardens since the early years when they were first established.

Cleveland Cultural Gardens

The new additions include Vietnamese, Korean, Mexican, Native American, French, Egyptian, Colombia, Uzbekistan and Scottish.

All of them are slated to join the 35 gardens already lining MLK Drive and East Boulevard.

"That growth tells me number one, people are loving the Cleveland Cultural Gardens and want to be a part of it, and that our community is very vibrant, culturally vibrant, culturally diverse," said Ashyk.

We won't see the added diversity right away.

"It can take four to five years to actually build a garden," said Ashyk.

In the meantime, the Cultural Gardens is rolling out a new summer concert series and will offer walking tours every other Saturday starting June 11.

Cleveland Cultural Gardens

"Not only are the gardens themselves being built, but there's much, much more activity in the gardens than there used to be," said Ashyk.

Haider said she is anxious to host a ceremonial groundbreaking on the Pakistani garden later this month.

"We are part of what makes this city really awesome," said Haider.

Haider said not only is the representation important, but it also fosters acceptance.

"We live here, we work here, we give back to the community here," said Haider.