The Beautiful Battlefield
January 6, 2016 11:10 AM   Subscribe

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park, nestled between Akron and Cleveland in northeast Ohio, is one of the few urban national parks in the US. But unlike similar urban national parks that were created entirely of government land, the CVNP was formed from a mix of both public and private property. The 1980 film, For All People, For All Time (and accompanying PBS Frontline episode), documents the eminent domain seizures and heavy-handed tactics used by the National Park Service in the creation of the park. Since then, the few surviving towns that exist within the park (aka "Helltown") are shrouded in urban legend and folklore, which some attribute to the cleanup of the Krejci Dump.

Today, little record exists of the eminent domain disputes, aside from a five-part series in the long-defunct Cleveland Press (PDF, begins at page 18, reprinted in the Big Sur Gazette).
posted by slogger (9 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
This is a fascinating bit of history about my state that I never know about. My wife and I have considered trying a camping trip in eastern Ohio for one of our weekend jaunts, but now we have to worry about HELLTOWN! (We won't trespass, promise. Unless there are neat rocks. Then my wife becomes Indiana Jones.)
posted by charred husk at 12:56 PM on January 6, 2016

charred husk: if you want neat rocks, the ledges at Virginia Kendall are fantastic. There's also great semi-primitive camping sites behind Stanford House.
posted by slogger at 1:21 PM on January 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Virginia Kendall ledges. Have sturdy shoes, you'll get a workout.
posted by xena at 1:42 PM on January 6, 2016

Thirding Ledges, was just there in October, very much want to go back.
posted by palomar at 3:03 PM on January 6, 2016

My wife and I bicycle to Boston Township on the Cuyahoga Valley's towpath trail. It's about the pleasantest thing you can imagine. There are few places on earth less forbidding. Until I read these links, I had no idea about the area's supposed sinister reputation. As for the removal of people by eminent domain, well -- government.
posted by Modest House at 3:29 PM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Funny, I was driving around there a month or so ago and was like, "what the hell are these houses doing here in the middle of a park?"
posted by jpe at 5:51 PM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fascinating; I grew up here and moved back to Cleveland 6 years ago and never heard of any controversy from developing the CVNP.

I'm watching the frontline doc right now and about a third of the way through it....

It's not kind to the NPS. The doc mostly follows the homeowners whose homes were in the new National Park area that were to be demolished by the NPS and didn't want to leave the area.

Homeowners in the area had one of three fates: receive a scenic easement from NPS which would allow the homeowner to stay in their home as long as they wanted and didn't make major modifications; or the lesser options: home was sold outright to the NPS or a lease that would allow the homeowner to live there for 25 years after being sold to the NPS and the property would go fully to the NPS.

The doc mentions that over 300 homes were purchased through fee titles and only a few received scenic easements but how many of these purchased homes were from homeowners who took the $ offer without much hesitation and moved out. It hasn't said how many homeowners were protesting the NPS' decisions... I look forward to finish this tomorrow but sleep beckons.
posted by fizzix at 8:48 PM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this post. I was vaguely aware of the historical controversy, but it's good to have the details.

When I lived in NE Ohio, I spent most of my trail time in the South Chagrin Reservation Metropark. I only walked in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park a few times but drove through it often, and my 8th grade class took a field trip to see the restored lock on the canal.
posted by audi alteram partem at 9:15 AM on January 9, 2016

Hey I work at there! It's a beautiful place, definitely worth a visit (or several) if you live in the area or are passing through. Great hiking, great biking, and the train runs through the entire park during the summer if you'd like to see it that way. And if you happen to see a handsome guy wearing an NPS hat and driving a big pick-up truck, feel free to say hello!
posted by Man Bites Dog at 7:08 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

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