The effort to improve the western corner of Lakewood Park’s lakefront promenade is moving forward and visitors there may be able to enjoy an upgraded walking path and more scenic views of the lake as soon as next year.
The potential changes are just one part of a larger six-phase project now being designed by Environmental Design Group. The firm was selected by the city over five other groups in August when it was awarded a $25,000 contract for the job based on its innovative design approaches, waterfront and landfill experience, technical abilities, and close relationship with the Ohio EPA.
The latter qualifications are especially valuable because the promenade area sits atop a former construction debris landfill and will necessitate the involvement of the state’s environmental officials.
In separate meetings held earlier this month, both the Planning Commission and Architectural Board of Review gave positive reviews to the preliminary design concepts presented by Environmental Design Group’s project representatives Jeffrey Kerr and Matthew Montecalvo.
Residents and other interested parties will have another opportunity to review the concepts and provide feedback at a public meeting scheduled for 7:00 p.m., on Wednesday, December 11, at the University of Akron Lakewood at 1415 Warren Road, on the first floor of the Bailey Building.
While a formal plan of action hasn’t been established yet, Dru Siley, the city’s director of the department of planning and development, has expressed a desire to see work begin next year on the Lower Promenade Extension.
It would entail a continuation of the brick paver-style path up what is currently a 560-foot long dirt trail. The phase would also include the removal of a section of trees and bushes along the shoreline area north of the path to improve the view of the lake and sunset.
The city has $275,000 in funding available for the path improvement and tree removal. This money had been kept in reserve with the hope it would be used to expand Lakewood Park westward. Unfortunately, the city and the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine (who own the property next to the park) never were able to reach an agreement.
On top of the steep cliff overlooking the lower promenade and to the north of the existing multipurpose trail, the design team wants to create an upper promenade walkway and sitting area where people can enjoy the view of the lake.
One big challenge designers are working through is how to minimize the visual impact of the fence that’s necessary to prevent anyone from tumbling down the cliff. Project designer Jeffrey Kerr noted, “We want people to be able to see through that and make it as transparent as possible.”
The signature element of the entire project and probably the most technically challenging part is the construction of solstice stairs on the cliff leading to the lower promenade. The project engineer believes the steps can be constructed using minimally invasive techniques by adding material on top of the existing slope rather excavating into it.
The design team has an idea of how it wants things to look, but hasn’t yet made any firm decisions about what kind of materials will be used. The team said it would be careful to recommend materials sure to withstand the unrelenting elements of the lakefront.
A note of caution regarding the computer renderings: They are merely design concepts and not fully developed plans. The images above, for instance, suggest easy access to the water. It is not the case in reality. The design team made a point of saying the terrain at the shoreline is dangerous in its current state and no modifications would be made to allow people to get closer to the water.
Kerr wants to explore the possibility of adding some creative flair to the upper promenade area.
“We’ve got this idea that somehow in an Indiana Jones type of fashion we can line up the summer solstice with some kind of articulation on the steps,” he said, “so when people go out there on June 21st at sunset they can literally see this line come together” and possibly hold a celebratory event each year.
Right now, when park visitors walk south on the dirt trail leading up from the western end of the lower promenade, they reach the top of the cliff and see the rump end of a public works complex. The designers want to add some heavy screening in that area and make it more park-like.