From Landfill to Landmark: Brighton Park Opens in Old Brooklyn

June 24, 2021

Western Reserve Land Conservancy has partnered with Cleveland Metroparks and the Old Brooklyn Development Corporation to create a new public greenspace in Old Brooklyn called Brighton Park. The 25-acre park is the result of significant restoration of the former Henninger Landfill property, an industrial waste landfill for over 40 years.

The new park provides a critical connection between the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Brookside Reservation, and will provide needed greenspace in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood.

“The transformation of a disused, vacant lot into a vibrant and natural community greenspace is finally complete,” said Rich Cochran, President and CEO at Western Reserve Land Conservancy. “Brighton Park has been decades in the making. By partnering with Old Brooklyn Development Corporation and Cleveland Metroparks, we’ve created an urban oasis that future generations will appreciate and enjoy. It is a lasting testament to the determination of many individuals who came together as a team to create something truly special.”

The new park spans approximately 25 acres and includes a half mile of paved all purpose trail connecting from Pearl Road and Wildlife Way to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo through Brighton Park to W. 21st Street. The park also includes a half mile of looped natural surface trail as well as a scenic overlook of Big Creek, the Cuyahoga River’s third largest tributary.

Brighton Park has been decades in the making. By partnering with Old Brooklyn Development Corporation and Cleveland Metroparks, we’ve created an urban oasis that future generations will appreciate and enjoy – Rich Cochran

“We’re thankful for the tremendous partnership of Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Old Brooklyn CDC to take a former landfill and turn it into a vibrant community asset,” said Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian M. Zimmerman. “This new park will not only serve the residents of the Old Brooklyn neighborhood, but also provide a critical connection between Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Brookside Reservation to the Towpath Trail and beyond.”

The former Henninger Landfill, located near the corner of Pearl Road and Henninger Road, ceased operation in the 1980s. After nearly 20 years of disuse, the Land Conservancy acquired the property in 2014 through the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund. In 2021, Cleveland Metroparks entered into a lease and management agreement for the property for conservation, park management and protection. While trees were recently planted for shade along the trails, Cleveland Metroparks will maintain open meadows to allow for scenic views and enhance pollinator habitat.

Since May, Cleveland Metroparks and project partners have added 4.5 miles of trails in Cleveland as well as opened the new Brighton Park. More than 26,000 people live within a 10-minute walk of the new trails and projects.

“The opening of Brighton Park exemplifies Old Brooklyn’s rebirth as it anchors the Brighton commercial district along Pearl Road,” said Jeffrey Verespej, Executive Director of Old Brooklyn CDC. “Envisioned by the community for twenty years, it has taken the partnership of many organizations, neighbors, and funders to accomplish this massive transformation. Old Brooklyn CDC knows that providing access to parks, recreation, and nature is critical to healthy neighborhoods and healthy lives.”

Funding for improvements to the property comes from a diverse array of sources including Ohio Public Works Commission’s Clean Ohio Green Space Conservation Program, the Recreational Trail Program administered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Sustain Our Great Lakes program, Cuyahoga County’s Brownfield remediation funding and Supplemental Grant Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as Bank of America, Cleveland Foundation, Freshwater Future, Howmet Aerospace Foundation, John P. Murphy Foundation, NOPEC, Sears-Swetland Family Foundation, and the Kent H. Smith Charitable Trust.

“I grew up on this landfill, playing ‘King of the Mountain’ with my childhood friends,” said former Cleveland City Councilman and Old Brooklyn resident Jim Rokakis. “When I was first elected to City Council in 1978, I knew the residents of this neighborhood wanted this space to be something special. Throughout my career, I searched for ways to turn the landfill into a Cleveland landmark. It is exciting to see the partnerships and perseverance of so many dedicated people coming together to create such a wonderful natural space.”