$2.5m makeover of zone rec center is an effort to make park an ‘urban oasis’

To some, Michael J. Zone Recreation Center is just another city park where teenagers play pick-up basketball, softball teams face off on scruffy fields, and kids scamper about on a well-worn playground.

Yet for others, this 22-acre green space on Cleveland’s near-west side has the potential to become an urban oasis, a premier green space that serves the neighborhood while providing a model for integrating sustainability into city parks.

Recently, the City of Cleveland broke ground on $2.5 million of improvements to “Zone Rec,” bringing this lofty vision much closer to becoming a reality.

“City residents deserve a place that is as special as any of the parks in Beachwood or Bay Village,” Councilman Matt Zone told residents at a recent community meeting.

In redesigning the park, planners implemented sustainability features that include capturing rainwater on site, rather than funneling it into storm sewers. Some of it will be used to water rain gardens filled with native plants and wildflowers.

Features of the new park, which was designed by McKnight Associates, include new baseball diamonds, basketball and tennis courts, as well as a new soccer field, splash park, playground, skateboard park and dog park. It will also feature a meandering path for walkers, joggers and bikers, a new pavilion and stage area, and three separate parking areas.

At the meeting, Zone said the new park will have separate play areas for older and younger children. Activities for younger children will be located at the center of the park, so they can be easily supervised by staff and parents.

The redeveloped park will provide opportunities for urban youth, Zone said. “A lot of city kids don’t even have an opportunity to go swimming, and the new ‘sprayground’ park lets them get in the water.”

Zone cited the dog park as an example of how community input shaped the park’s redesign. A groundswell of local support led Steve Manka, the artist hired to complete the public art, to design dog bone sculptures for the park.

“You’ll see the sculptures from I-90 and know immediately what this place is and that there’s a dog park here,” said Zone. “The sculptures also function as seating.”

Zone Recreation Center is located at West 65th Street and Lorain Avenue in the Cleveland EcoVillage area of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.

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