I had heard for years about the infamous Dike 14, owned by the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority and operated adjacent to the Cleveland Lakefront State Park along the shores of Lake Erie. Adventurous birders who explored the area were amazed at the large number of bird species found there, not to mention the other wildlife as well. Tantalizing as it was to venture out there, the 88-acre plot of land still had some unanswered questions for me. This site, roughly the same size as the Cleveland State University campus, was basically a giant plot of unwanted river dredgings. After years of reclamation by nature and various environmental studies, it was deemed a safe place to wander into. In February 2012, the Port Authority, who still owns the site, opened the former Dike 14 as the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve (CLNP).
Recently in March, my office was relocated to the Lakefront Management Center (former Ohio Department of Natural Resources offices.) I am now sitting just moments away from the entrance to the CLNP. When I first arrived, I explored this area that everyone raved about. It didn’t take long this spring to witness the fascination of over a hundred bird species coming through the area. Most memorable was the flitting of dozens of individual yellow warblers through the trees during spring migration. I was hooked. Various ventures through the Preserve have helped me embrace the importance of this area as green space for wildlife. It also has some really great views of Lake Erie along the 1.75 mile perimeter trail.
Periodically, a local tour group visits and I take the opportunity to share a brief introduction to the area with them. Every time, I seem to discover something new through research, my co-workers or the tour leader, John. I discovered that the area we are in was part of the original Gordon Park (now divided by the Shoreway); that the area next to us was an old Nike site (defense missiles, not shoes) back in the Cold War Era; that two barges are buried in the Preserve as they filled it with dredgings from the Cuyahoga River from 1979-1999; that the shoreline was much more inland before the Shoreway was put in; and from overhead the created CLNP actually looks like a Duck’s Head.
There are so many fascinating discoveries awaiting you here along the lake and in the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve. Come out to see how nature has reclaimed a not-so-pretty past. Feel free to walk the trails anytime from 6 a.m. – dusk. Oh, and did I mention that periodically one may spot a bald eagle soaring above the Preserve? Now if only one of the snowy owls would head this way…