posted: July 29th, 2010 | by:Bert
©Bert Gildart: On June 22, 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire sparking an environmental movement that continues to this day. Though this horribly polluted river had caught fire many times in previous years, because so many other national environmental problems existed in the late ‘60s, it was this particular disaster that sparked creation of Earth Day and the Clean Water Act. Today, among some, the word “environment” foments anger in ways that almost defies common sense, and it seems we should recall that the desire for quality living once brought many together.
Certainly some of the beneficiaries of the solutions to problems of the ’60s were those people living south of Cleveland and north of Akron, for it also generated a local movement. Suddenly residents wanted to clean up the Cuyahoga River, not realizing that they might be creating something magnificent that they had not initially envisioned. What many forget today, is that in those days almost everyone was an “environmentalists.” And that it was popular to be one.
First, volunteers and professions cleaned the river. Then, later, national park planners capitalized on the historic Ohio and Erie Canal that paralleled the Cuyahoga, creating a national recreation area out of the river and out of the historic canal. Then, in the year 2000, managers went even further elevating the area to that of a national park. By doing so, not only have the lives of locals been enriched, but so have the lives of visitors — curious about what they might find in Ohio’s only national park. It’s a category into which Janie and I recently fit, and now we too are Cuyahoga National Park enthusiasts.
For the past few days Janie and I have been exploring this national park, enjoying it by pursuing one of our passions and that is bicycling. We began our explorations parking our truck at the visitor center in Peninsular where we unloaded our bikes and struck out for Indian Mound Train Station, located about 12 miles away. The scenery was lovely and the history moving, but what interested us as much as anything was the enthusiasm so many strangers shared about Cuyahoga National Park.
One lady came over to us as we were enjoying an interpretive area labeled “Beaver Marsh,” and told us that once the area had been a Volkswagen junkyard. Then she said that one day, about 20 years ago, she drove by and saw huge cranes lifting rusting car bodies from the mud. “It made me happy,” she said. “Really happy.”
Deer and Great Blue Herons have returned to what was once an area too polluted for most any kind of life. Both photos taken on the same day from along the bike trail in this fascinating national park.
Later, a volunteer at the Hunt Visitor Center added to her thoughts. “The plan,” he said, “was to make the junkyard into a parking lot. But several beavers built a dam and that created a new plan. Mangers thought the beaver had a better idea and today, we must have at least four lodges in and around the marsh. That makes for about 30 beaver.”
TRAINS HELP CYCLISTS
Today, a lengthy board walk now takes cyclists across this grand example of nature, one that combines with other aspects and which is deserving of national park status. In fact, the entire park with its history of the canal system and examples of nature prompted us to spend a number of days cycling the park from one end to the other. Because trains were also part of the history of the area, the park service has added train transportation that benefits visitors, and certainly cyclists. Between Wednesday and Sunday, you can park your car at any of about five different train stops, cycle to some distant place along the canal, flag down a train and then for $2.00 hop aboard and return to your vehicle.
Cycling then is a great experience and along the way Janie and I saw great blue herons, beaver, wood ducks and various species of turtles. As well, the trail takes you to old farms, to small villages defined by the large quantities of fruit and vegetables for sale. And of course, it interprets the canal system that helped settle a nation.
But it does yet more: Cuyahoga National Park demonstrates the blight that too much industrialization can bring about. On an upbeat note it also demonstrates how resilient nature can be when concerned citizens band together and insist that, yes, there really is a better way of living life. Cuyahoga is literally up from the ashes.
THIS TIME LAST YEARS:
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