477 views • posted 09/06/2022 • updated 09/15/2023
Brighton Park, formerly the Henninger Landfill, was a construction and demolition debris landfill in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood of Cleveland that ceased operation in the 1980s.
by Sue Crowe, Database Coordinator
Nothing captures the spirit and history of Cleveland better than the story of Brighton Park. Located on the banks of Big Creek, a direct tributary to the Cuyahoga River, the site has been active since the late 1800s for various industrial purposes. Beginning in the mid-1900s, it was operated as a landfill, with the disposal of foundry sand from the Ford Motor Foundry, construction debris from the construction of Interstate I-71, and debris from the demolition of the Municipal Stadium in the late 1990s. The site was thus a relic of Cleveland’s rich industrial history, but not particularly conducive to improved quality of life for the residents of the growing and diversifying neighborhood of Old Brooklyn.
In 2006, the Henninger Landfill was identified as a key acquisition component for public open space by the City of Cleveland, the Cleveland Metroparks, and the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation, among other community partners. Western Reserve Land Conservancy entered the scene in 2012. Over the past five and a half years since the landfill was acquired, the Land Conservancy and its partners have tirelessly worked to fundraise for, and implement, the environmental remediation and passive park improvements necessary to turn the property into a clean, safe space for neighborhood residents to recreate and enjoy time in nature.
In 2019 the Western Reserve Land Conservancy received $346,381 in Recreational Trails Program funds to install 2,175 lineal feet of multi-use trails and 3,000 lineal feet of natural trails on the 25-acre site. The trails link the Old Brooklyn neighborhood to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and provide a launch point for a neighborhood connection to the Towpath Trail.
Western Reserve Land Conservancy and its project partners are proud to say that the next chapter in the story of the Henninger Landfill, now known as Brighton Park, has been written. Construction of park improvements including all-purpose and natural surface trails, a parking area, and a scenic overlook with views of Big Creek and the Industrial Valley was completed in the spring of 2021 and the park was officially opened to the public on June 22, 2021. In addition to the park amenities provided for trail users, ecological restoration is ongoing including planting over 180 trees, meadow restoration, invasive species treatment, and installation of a vegetative filter strip to filter stormwater runoff from the parking area. These investments will support healthy ecological succession on this former landfill, establishing native wildlife habitat while also protecting water quality along Big Creek and supporting efforts to improve water quality in the Cuyahoga River.
This is the story of how a land conservancy, a community development corporation, and a regional parks district came together and leveraged their unique strengths to realize a community vision, turning a retired landfill into a natural and recreational asset while simultaneously improving ecological conditions in a riparian zone and improving park access and trail connectivity for a Cleveland neighborhood. This project has helped make the recreational assets in and around the Old Brooklyn neighborhood more accessible for residents by foot, bike, or other means of non-motorized transportation and has contributed to regional efforts to increase tree canopy and restore Great Lakes waterways. It is Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s hope that the story of Brighton Park will inspire other community development, parks and recreation, and land conservation professionals operating in post-industrial cities, fighting to revitalize their communities through the expansion of parks and trailways and the redevelopment of brownfield sites – while also highlighting the importance of public funds to support these efforts.