CLEVELAND - Ten years in the making, two tunnels connecting the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood with the lakefront at Edgewater Park opened Tuesday evening.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson was joined by Councilman Matt Zone and officials from the neighborhood, ODOT and the Metroparks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on West 76th Street, the southern entrance to the tunnel.
Resident Jim Cutrone spoke at the ceremony, touting the strength of the grassroots effort in the area saving the tunnel.
"This passageway is symbolic, not of just an entrance to a beautiful park, but also of the future of Cleveland," he said.
Cutrone spoke of an effort by a previous Cleveland administration to fill in the tunnel and how the neighborhood rallied to preserve it.
The first of the two tunnels was built under railroad tracks in 1913. Zone, who played in the tunnel as a boy, said the tunnel was built to combat a growing number of people being struck by trains more than 100 years ago.
Over the years, the tunnel had suffered from neglect and was a haven for gangs, debris and the homeless.
The second of the two tunnels goes under the West Shoreway.
At the ribbon cutting, resident Fran DiBelo stood back in the crowd with her dog Hunter.
"Hunter is way happier. His tail is wagging," she said. The two like to go to the park, where Hunter loves to play in Lake Erie. Their walk to the lake is much easier now.
Lisa McGovern and husband John rode bikes through the tunnel with daughter Frankie pulled in a trailer behind John's bike. They moved to the neighborhood from Ohio City a few years ago.
"We chose this neighborhood because it's a walkable, urban neighborhood, because it's close to downtown" Lisa said, "and because this is one of the few places in the city that you are this close to Lake Erie."
Access to the Lake is now easier and makes the neighborhood, already a Cleveland hot spot, an even more attractive area of the city.
"Lake Erie, Edgewater Park, it's one of greatest asset for this neighborhood and it's great to celebrate connecting back to the lake," said Jeff Ramsey, executive director of the Detroit-Shoreway Development Corporation.
During the ceremony, it was announced a building alongside the entrance to the tunnel will be rehabbed into an apartment building.
Artwork on the north-exterior wall of the first tunnel depicts a glacier as a reminder of how our area was geologically formed. Some speakers noted the pace of the project seemed to move at glacial speed.
Zone pointed out neighbors who have adopted the tunnel to watch for vandalism. He told the crowd of a couple living near the nearby West 65th tunnel who he gave five gallons of blue paint. The couple walks the tunnel every day, painting over graffiti when they find it.
In August, a new tunnel project begins three blocks to the east. This one is for vehicles and will connect West 76th Street to the lakefront and the Shoreway.
The video in our player is a one and a half minute point-of-view video of cyclist Jerry Layne's ride through the tunnel as it opened to cyclists first.