Cuyahoga Valley National Park Plans New Visitor Center

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Officials of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park held a ceremonial ground breaking today (Mon) for the park’s new visitor center.  They say the National Park Service is watching this project as a potential model nationwide.  

As a group America’s national parks are looking at about $12 billion dollars in deferred maintenance and few expect Congress to come to the rescue anytime soon.  Although Senators Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, did introduce the National Park Service Legacy Act last March that would begin to chip away at that.

The backlog for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park has been estimated at $44 million.  So park Superintendent Craig Kenkel says they’re lucky that the non-profit Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park stepped in to raise $6 million dollars for this visitor center.

“A lot of parks have friends groups. Not many friends groups have the capacity to do fundraising for a major project like this and then to lead the design and construction of that project.”

Kenkel says CVNP was able to win an NPS grant last year to fund a $1.5-million-dollar parking lot for the center. 

A parking lot and Riverview Rd is below the image; the Cuyahoga River is at top. (Environmental Design Group) 

The head of the Conservancy, Deb Yandala, says it will be built in a former company store across the street from Boston Mills ski resort.

“This is one of the more interesting buildings in the Cuyahoga Valley. And you can see the look of the storefront when you look at the building.  We think preserving our past is just as important as preparing for the future.” 

The building today.  (Mark Urycki/ideastream) 

But it won’t be easy.  The 110 year old structure was built on poor soil and has been moving. Architect Joseph Matava says it needs a new foundation.

“I was just speaking with the contractor about that.   Because originally we had planned on picking up the building and moving it out of the footprint of the existing building and redoing the foundation.  But now the discussions are: can we just elevate the building and work underneath it?” 

Matava says they did a little mining expedition to find the original materials of the wooden building.

“We did a little selective demolition to understand what the original finishes were underneath the finishes that are there. So the interior design was really more about bringing back the original finishes, kind of looking at the clues, finding what’s there, preserving that where we can preserve it and recreating it.”  

Deb Yandala (Mark Urycki/ideastream) 

Yandala says the NPS is looking to go with smaller visitor centers than some parks have built in recent years and they will be watching how the CVNP center performs.

The target opening date is spring of 2019.

Craig Kenkel (Mark Urycki/ideastream) 

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