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Cleveland Nature Preserve

Cleveland, Ohio

Unique Wildlife Habitat

The Port of Cleveland works with key stakeholders to find innovative solutions for infrastructure challenges – and does it in a way that creates community assets.

The Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve on the Lake Erie shoreline illustrates this approach. Formerly a disposal site for sediment dredged from the river, this 88-acre peninsula east of downtown Cleveland is now a unique wildlife habitat that the Port -- after working with key partners in environmental education and government – is opening to the public. The decision underscored the Port’s commitment to environmental initiatives and enhancing lakefront access.

The Nature Preserve’s land mass was created over time.  From 1979 to 1999 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed the site – then known as Dike 14 -- as a disposal site for sediment from the Cuyahoga River and the Cleveland Harbor. After the site was closed to dredge material in 1999, nature took hold.

Today the site is managed by the Port and has become a habitat for a diverse collection of flora and fauna. In recent years, community volunteers have identified more than 280 species of birds, numerous butterflies, more than a dozen species of mammals and reptiles (including red fox, coyote, mink, and deer), and dozens of trees, shrubs, and native Ohio wildflowers and grasses. The landscape includes coastal areas, mudflats, wetlands, grasslands, forests, meadows, and shrub lands.

Audubon Ohio designated the Nature Preserve as an Important Bird Area (IBA), due to its location at the intersection of four migratory bird routes: Lake Erie, the shore of Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga River Valley, and the Doan Brook Valley. In addition to providing a one-of-a-kind lakefront setting for bird watching, the preserve also presents recreational and educational opportunities for children and adults.

The Environmental Education Collaborative, a group formed in 2003 to connect people and nature at Dike 14, has played a key role in advocating for resources at the preserve, and focused on promoting environmental stewardship and multi-interdisciplinary environmental education there. A risk assessment completed in 2007 showed the site can safely be used for environmental education.

The Port will continue to manage the preserve as a public lakefront amenity and plans to design a suite of richly textured habitat areas that could be developed in phases to improve the preserve's value to wildlife and people.  It also plans to continue working with the Collaborative and others in the community to maximize educational and environmental opportunities. The Preserve is open during daylight hours and is free to the public.