New nature preserve in Slavic Village opens with a flurry of seed ‘bombs’

The 4-acre Morgana Bluffs Nature Preserve and Learning Center in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood was dedicated today by kids and guests chucking milkweed seed “bombs” into the new urban park.

The dedication ceremony, which included public officials, neighborhood advocates, project partners and members of Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland’s Broadway Club, marked the opening of the preserve on property where the powerhouse for the massive Cleveland Worsted Mill Co. complex once stood. The Broadway Avenue site is next to BGCC’s Broadway Club, the Morgana Run Trail and Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Mound STEM School.

The preserve will be used for nature-based programming. It is open to the public.

 “All kids need outdoor experiences to become responsible and productive adults.  This project will give approximately 1,700 youth in this neighborhood access to a place where they can discover nature,” said Ron Soeder, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, which coordinated the project along with, the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, the Clean Ohio Fund, the Ohio & Erie Canalway, Slavic Village Development Corporation and West Creek Conservancy.

Soeder added, “This project is an investment in the neighborhood and the opportunity to turn a vacant lot into a community asset.” He said the entire learning center “campus” – the project site plus the adjacent school, trail and BGCC properties – actually totals about 13.5 acres.

The project, which features trails, boardwalks and an amphitheater, was funded with money from the state’s Clean Ohio Greenspace Conservation Fund ($297,790), a Green Infrastructure Grant from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District ($242,420) and the Ohio & Erie Canalway Strategic Initiative Program ($46,230). In addition, key in-kind services were provided by West Creek Conservancy (consulting and planning), Cleveland Metropolitan School District (donated conservation easement) and Slavic Village Development (consulting and planning). Third Federal Foundation has also agreed to assist with grounds maintenance.

The project improves the quality of the existing wetlands, restores degraded landscapes, removes invasive plant species, creates areas for outdoor programming, improves water quality and protects rare plant and animal species.

Attendees and Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland members tossed milkweed seed “bombs” – seeds encased in mud – into the new preserve to mark the opening. The seed bombs will promote the growth of milkweed, the sole host plant of the endangered monarch butterfly.

Worsted Mill, which operated from 1878 to 1956, was once one of the largest garment manufacturers in the country. The factory sat on the upper property that is now Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland’s headquarters, while its powerhouse was located on the project site below.

After the mill closed, the buildings were never fully occupied, though sometimes used as warehouses for smaller firms and other times being vacant. On July 4, 1993 a spectacular fire destroyed the complex.

In 2011, the city and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted an environmental assessment and remediation on the lower portion of the site, cleaning up remnants of a junkyard, reviewing fuel tank locations and removing a crumbling smokestack. The remediation also removed several tons of junk tires and filled in the old tunnels that led to the upper mill site.

About Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland

Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland provides safe, fun places for kids ages 6-18 after school at locations throughout the city, focusing on healthy lifestyles, academic success and character development. Each day, an average of about 1,000 kids go to the Clubs.

About Slavic Village Development

Slavic Village Development works with and for its residents, businesses, and institutions to promote civic engagement, community empowerment, and neighborhood investment.

About West Creek Conservancy

West Creek is a nonprofit land conservancy whose mission is to enrich the lives of people in Greater Cleveland by conserving natural habitats, restoring the ecological value and sustainability of urban lands, and expanding neighborhood opportunities to experience nature.

About Third Federal Foundation

Third Federal Savings and Loan and its foundation, along with various community, private, and civic partners, have worked to build an integrated continuum of support for education, youth development (in and out of school), and revitalization in the Slavic Village neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, and other communities in which it operates.

About the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District protects public health and the environment by leading effective wastewater and stormwater management. As the largest wastewater treatment provider in the State of Ohio, the Sewer District spans 380 square miles, serves 62 communities and one million residents, and treats 90 billion gallons of wastewater a year.

About the Clean Ohio Fund

The Clean Ohio Fund restores, protects, and connects Ohio’s important natural and urban places by preserving green space and farmland, improving outdoor recreation, and cleaning up brownfields to encourage redevelopment and revitalize communities.

About the Ohio & Erie Canalway

The Ohio & Erie Canalway is a National Heritage Area, designated by Congress to help preserve and celebrate the rails, trails, landscapes, towns and sites that grew up along the first 110 miles of the canal that helped Ohio and our nation grow. The Ohio & Erie Canalway is an affiliated unit of the National Park Service.