The healing process of the Cuyahoga River has begun after the long awaited removal of the two downtown low-head dams this summer. The river is now flowing free and evidence of its changes can already be seen. The river has a much more natural meandering pattern, ripples and even some white caps leading to open access to the category 4 & 5 white water near the Sheraton. Most have commented on the beautiful sounds of moving water, the fresh smells and the clear water.
Sediment continues to move toward the Gorge Dam, especially after heavy rainfalls. Rainfall is crucial as Mother Nature helps the healing process. Shoreline areas are beginning to fill in naturally as well. Other areas, like near the Burntwood Tavern were seeded to control some erosion.
A large clean-up effort has also taken place at the river, including the removal of approximately 220 tons (that is just over 440,000 pounds of just tires!) of bicycle and other small tires that appear to have come from the former Falls Cycle Shop on Front Street. Tires continue to be removed from the river as more come to the surface. On National Public Lands Day, the Cuyahoga River was selected for cleanup; many dedicated volunteers cleaned out over 2 tons of trash! Debris may still surface over the next 12 to 18 months as the river continues to reshape.
In addition, the river area is still very much a construction zone. RiverWorks is currently building what are called “deflection walls” to protect both the power house structures at the Burntwood Tavern and the Sheraton Suites, from powerful water resulting from 100 year rain events. In addition, work is underway to create a take-out point for canoeists and kayakers under the Portage Trail bridge, in anticipation of the river construction ending for this calendar year. This location was the optimal place to create a take-out point due to the shoreline bedrock and existing structures down to the river. Some of the pillars will be covered with rock and a new limestone path will be added to provide a safe exit area for paddlers prior to getting to more difficult and dangerous waters. Some of the pillars will remain for viewing purposes and historical effect.
The City is also working with river recreational experts on what the Cuyahoga can become over the next few years, especially in the areas of paddling and recreation.