Cuyahoga River Towpath Trail

Cleveland, Ohio

Between the shores of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, a stretch of aging, under-utilized industrial land and an old shipping channel wound their way unremarkably south around the city.

Michael Baker served as the lead contractor for this multi-million-dollar, long-range sustainability effort that already has proven popular and a welcome improvement to the waterfront in Cleveland.

The project encompassed the restoration of 3,000 linear feet of fish habitat within an armored and dredged ship channel in the Cuyahoga River, while also transforming two adjoining properties – 11 acres that had served local industry as a rail yard and coal storage area – into a restored native habitat and park.

The project also included the acquisition of vacant post-industrial and commercial property, along with environmental cleanup of contaminated soils on the site and site restoration, planting of native species of trees and other plants and construction of a trail and river overlook. This overlook has proven one of the most popular elements of the project, providing visitors with free access via the new trail to observe the juxtaposition of the working river, industrial activity, city skyline and natural habitat.

The new development extends the Towpath Trail, a 100-mile-plus national heritage corridor, into downtown Cleveland. It also expands the footprint of Cleveland Metroparks, one of greater Cleveland’s most revered public assets, into the inner city. Metroparks also has developed educational programs around the trail system for school kids to experience nature within the city, further enhancing the trail’s value as a long-term educational resource and source of community outreach.

The comprehensive environmental cleanup of contaminated soils and overall restoration of this site to a natural state clearly has improved habitat for fish and birds in the Cuyahoga River ship channel. Our plan called for construction of four fish habitat zones and six bio-retention cells to provide not only improved fish habitat, but also to assist in more sustainable stormwater management.


“It has been incredibly rewarding to help the city of Cleveland to rethink, reshape and rebuild the urban river corridor into something purposeful, aesthetically beautiful, educational, restorative and sustainable.”

Jeff B.
Project Manager

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