The heavily forested area just to the north of the new fire station is officially called "the Oxbow," but the locals know it as "the Kingdom." Kids who grew up in Brooklyn in the '50s, '60s and '70s used it as a playground of sorts, a sylvan retreat that doubled as a home for a variety of wildlife. Streams with all sorts of aquatic life flowed through the woods then converged with the Big Creek on its journey to the Cuyahoga River.
Today, its potential as a vital link between the Metroparks' Brookside and Big Creek Reservations is being explored by both the city of Brooklyn and a grassroots organization called Friends of Big Creek. Bob Gardin, chair of FBC, led a group of city representatives and concerned citizens on a hike Saturday morning. Not only would a proposed Oxbow all-purpose trail link those two Metroparks reservations, but it would also connect to Memphis Avenue and Brooklyn's Civic Center and Memorial Park amenities.
Prior to 1976, that area was owned by Cleveland, and when Brooklyn acquired the land, it was designated "for recreational use only," meaning it couldn't become another housing development. Interestingly enough, the residents who live off of Rabbit Run enjoy the wooded buffer that the Oxbow creates. Even the deer who wander into backyards to munch on hostas and other plants are begrudgingly tolerated because, after all, they're part of the Oxbow ecosystem.
As Gardin and the group trudged over the trails that
have been used for decades, one was amazed to see how
much of the woodland features remain intact. Sassafras
seedlings grow along the trails, and despite some previous
visitors leaving their garbage behind and the roar of
Interstate 71 just to the north, one might think he was
hiking trails in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation
One of the things that the FBC would like to see is to have the Big Creek returned to its natural state. That is, no longer channeled as it passes through the Oxbow area and Brookside Reservation. The Big Creek's man-made concrete banks are beginning to deteriorate, exposing the natural shale that is so typical of northeast Ohio geology and ecology.
It's as if the Big Creek is breaking out of the concrete shackles with which man tried to tame it. During the construction of I-71, the natural flow of the Big Creek was "channelized," which caused problems with increased flooding, erosion and loss of terrestrial life along and aquatic life in the creek.
Regis Barrett, chair of the city of Brooklyn's Zoning Board of Appeals and a 27-year resident of Tiedeman Road, supports the FBC's efforts in preserving the Big Creek watershed and the Oxbow. A retired auto worker, Barrett went on the hike with his miniature poodle.
One of the residents' main concerns is safety on the trails. With the Metroparks on board, it stands to reason that the trails will be monitored and patrolled by Metroparks Rangers. It's apparent that the city of Brooklyn, the Cleveland Metroparks and the Friends of Big Creek are at least "on the same page," as one hiker put it. What remains to be seen is the implementation of the plan that could turn the Oxbow into a secure, safe, well-maintained linkage in the Metroparks chain.
Holan was among the hike participants
on Saturday. These are his reflections on what he observed
during the event.