Volunteers help plant ‘natural playscape’ in Eastlake

Residents will soon have a more accessible — and attractive — area to explore near the Chagrin River in Eastlake’s north end.

n contribution to a new “natural playscape” at Erie Road Park, volunteers, city officials, Chagrin River and Tinkers Creek Watershed Partners gathered on Oct. 9 to plant new trees and native plants at the site, where a natural playground, benches and tunnel have already been installed.

Josh Myers, project manager for the Chagrin River Watershed Partners, organized the planting event in conjunction with the city in order to involve the community in the project.

“Natural playscapes are play spaces that incorporate the use of natural materials such as living plants, wood, boulders and water,” Myers said. “These natural playscapes provide children and families with a connection to nature and encourage exploration, free expression and creativity during play.”

The playspace will contain natural playground features, trees and other native plants, which are less expensive than traditional landscaping and they can introduce a habitat for birds, butterflies and other pollinators, Myers stated. Gum trees planted at the site were provided by SWB Landscaping.

Myers also said that native plants can grow roots around 5 to 15 feet deep and provide drainage and erosion control benefits.

“Choosing native plants allows developed landscapes to coexist with nature, rather than compete with it,” he highlighted. “Native plants have adapted to our local conditions over thousands of years and can survive our wet springs and dry summers with little maintenance needed.”

Myers stated that ODNR’s NatureWorks grant application listed the total project cost at $56,860. The grant provides $42,620 for the project. The remaining $14,240 of donated cash, labor, materials and equipment are being provided by the city of Eastlake, the Port Authority of Eastlake, Big Dig Underground Repair Services and Kurtz Bros.

The project is part of an effort to increase public access to the Chagrin River and Lake Erie, which also includes “an ADA-accessible kayak launch installed last year and future enhancements for stormwater management, such as a permeable pavement parking area, streamside plantings along Corporation Creek and a bioretention system to enhance public access while effectively managing stormwater.”

Myers said that a community stakeholder engagement process led by the Port Authority of Eastlake and the Cleveland Foundation found that a lack of “safe and attractive” public access to the river and lake was an issue for the city.

“Public input from a diverse group of community members and stakeholders contributed to the development of a Park Conceptual Planning Project to enhance the public property at Erie Road Park,” Myers stated. “This natural playground is one enhancement that was identified in the planning process.”

While visiting the park recently, Mayor Dennis Morley said that he appreciated the volunteers that came to help plant at the park. City Council members were also at the event to help plant trees and other plants.

Myers added that he anticipates the natural playscape project to cost less than the amount budgeted. It is expected to be done within or around one month.

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