PARMA, Ohio — For the last year, some Parma residents have fought tooth and nail to prevent a popular lake from being turned into a catch basin. Next month, crews will officially begin draining Ridgewood Lake to make way for the project.
Officials say heavy rainfall frequently flooded the space, damaging homes and garages in the area for the last several decades.
They believe the catch basin will now offer a permanent solution and a scenic space for residents.
However, not everyone is standing behind the project.
“Save Ridgewood Lake is really important to me. It’s pretty much the heart of Parma in my mind. Ya know, for me it really has a special place in my heart," said Alexander Simic, a lifelong Parma resident.
When Simic says he’s passionate about Ridgewood Lake, he means it.
A massive "Save Ridgewood Lake' sign has been splashed across the front window of his home since last year.
Living steps away from the lake, he has fond memories. His efforts, though, have now wavered.
“It’s sad. Ya know, this has been here for 100 years and it’s part of the community," said Simic.
Ridgewood Lake will soon undergo a major transformation and look vastly different.
The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Board of Trustees recently approved the Upper Ridgewood Basin.
Once completed, the $3.3 million project will transform the lake into a green retention basin with updated landscaping, informational signage, scenic trails, and benches for everyone to use.
Although the lake will be gone, officials say there will still be a stream of water.
In fact, when it rains, the catch basin will fill with water and slowly release it, instead of flooding out the area.
"We hope to reduce that surface flooding by 40% by doing this project along Big Creek in that area. And we'll be able to hold back about four million gallons more than what was previously able to be held in that basin," said Donna Friedman, Watershed Team Leader Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.
Simic believes another option should have been considered outside of the basin and says additional community input would have changed the face of the project.
“I’m worried that they’re not going to maintain it the way they should and also worry about the sewage coming in here," he said.
In the meantime, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District says that once completed, it will not only be cost-effective but will cause fewer headaches for all residents.
"We recognize this is a community asset, community park. It will make a difference," said Friedman.
Fencing will go up around the area and work is set to begin in September on the new catch basin.
The project will take about one year to complete.