Rivergate Park Now a Reality for Cleveland

The Cleveland Rowing Foundation (CRF) in partnership with The Trust for Public Land (TPL) today announced the successful conclusion of their effort to acquire a seven-acre commercial riverfront site in the Flats. The new site will create a public park and preserve public access to the Cuyahoga for healthy, people-powered activities such as kayaking, canoeing, rowing and dragon boating. Rivergate is expected to open to the public in the summer of 2011.

“Today marks another giant step in the revitalization of our downtown,” commented Bob Valerian, Cleveland Rowing Foundation’s President. “Rivergate will become a magnet bringing thousands to the Flats to enjoy the increasing natural beauty of our river.”

Over 850 people, including eight local high school and college crew teams, kayakers and dragon boaters, regularly use CRF’s current boathouse. However, the fate of the current facility became doubtful with the passage of the recent casino initiative which included the leased boathouse property in its footprint.

“CRF approached The Trust for Public Land to help negotiate and secure a new site and TPL was delighted to assist,” remarked Bill Carroll, TPL’s Ohio State Director. “Rivergate presents a rare opportunity to create a park and recreational gem on the banks of the Cuyahoga River in the center of downtown Cleveland.”

Rivergate also affords the space to create a world class water sports venue capable of hosting national regattas. “We hope to bring exciting new events to the Cuyahoga which will attract thousands of visitors to our city,” remarked Theresa Gang, CRF’s Executive Director.

Gang also noted that the new site provides space for expanded programming including learn-to-row programs for urban youth which have been successful in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

Rivergate enjoyed broad-based support from the community, including government, foundation, corporate and individual donors. According to Sarah Ott-Hansen, CRF’s Development Director, “Raising funds for a capital project isn’t easy in this economic environment, but Rivergate resonated with donors.”

The Cleveland Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, MetLife Foundation and other local foundations made significant gifts. In addition, a major catalyst was Peter B. Lewis who made a $250,000 challenge grant that spurred new donors including Paul Buchheit, a recent Case Western Reserve University graduate (’98) and early Google employee, who joined the university and the Spartan Alumni Rowing Association to make a significant gift. The Lubrizol Foundation, Scranton Road Development Corporation and Forest City were among the many others who helped meet the Lewis challenge grant. Finally, The Parker Hannifin Foundation’s contribution days before closing along with a bridge loan from Huntington Bank enabled Rivergate to become a reality.

CRF’s work will not end with the acquisition of the Rivergate site. The organization will immediately begin making modest renovations to existing buildings on the site, move the 120 boats from its current facility and installing docks, undertake a site master planning effort and initiate the process of converting the vacant concrete-covered site into a public park and vibrant recreational center in the Flats.

CRF will work with ParkWorks, a local non-profit engaged in reclaiming urban green spaces to convert the vacant, concrete-covered site to park and recreation space.

CRF is a twenty-year-old non-profit organization, dedicated to promoting low impact use of the Cuyahoga River and preserving public access to the river for healthy, people-powered activities. CRF is committed to making the river accessible to all individuals regardless of race, gender, religion, socioeconomic background, ethnicity, or physical disabilities.

The Trust for Public Land is a national, nonprofit, land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, community gardens, historic sites, rural lands and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come.