CLEVELAND — Cleveland's greatest asset is Lake Erie both when it comes to commerce, the $3.5 in annual economic activity that comes through the Port of Cleveland and through tourism which generates close to $11 billion annually for the state.
Bringing those two groups together was the purpose of a meeting Friday between U.S. Senator Rob Portman, leaders of the Port of Cleveland and leaders of the Cleveland MetroParks, two of the biggest local stewards of Lake Erie.
"Both groups are working together right now and that's good. The lake is cleaner than it's been in the past," Senator Portman said. "We just got to keep pushing ahead and make sure the progress we made is sustainable."
And they're working together on a transformational project called CHEERS, the Cleveland Harbor Eastern Embayment Resilience Study. A $300 million dollar plan that will transform the area north of the old First Energy Power Plant that was imploded several years ago off E. 55th street.
"It's really a very unique opportunity to re-imagine our waterfront, create more accessibility, to create fish estuaries and really a new recreation component that the east side of Cleveland has not seen," said Brian Zimmerman, CEO of Cleveland Metroparks.
And how they will make it happen is by taking the dredged materials from the Cuyahoga River that are needed to keep the commercial shipping lanes open and using it to create this future park land.
"Edgewater Park here in our Northeast Ohio that was dredged material, Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, dredge material all creating access points to our wonderful lakefront," Zimmerman said.
The Port of Cleveland is set to award a $4 million design contract as they will handle the early aspects of the project.
"We'll do the foundational work at the port and once that rises up out of the water," said Port of Cleveland CEO Will Friedman, "the Metroparks will take over and do what they do best which is put parks in place."
It will take years to make happen but will last for years as a statement of the partnership that can exist between manufacturing, shipping and tourism.
"I don't know that there's an ecosystem of professionals that are working," Zimmerman said. "Maritime, shipping industry, the City of Cleveland, the county, the Port, the Sewer District, we are all here for the betterment of this region and working together in earnest to make great strides for this region."