Speaker to recount history of Cuyahoga River's Gorge Dam

Kent Weeklies
Originally, the Cuyahoga River coursed through a series of waterfalls called “Big Falls,” which were a local attraction. They will likely return with the removal of Gorge Dam.

The rescue and restoration of the Cuyahoga River is perhaps Northeast Ohio’s greatest environmental success story. Yet a hurdle still stands in the way of a complete rebirth of the crooked river, a 60-foot-high hurdle.

For its October program, Hudson Heritage Association welcomes Summit Metro Parks Watershed Specialist Elaine Marsh, who will present “Bringing Down the Dam, Freeing the Falls,” an engaging look at the history of Gorge Dam and what its forthcoming removal will mean for the environment and the region.

Marsh’s presentation will be Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020, at 7:30 p.m. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the program will be virtual, airing on Hudson Community TV (Channel 1021) and HCTV’s online livestream (www.hudson.oh.us/1081/Watch-HCTV-Channels-Online). For those who miss the broadcast on Oct. 8, the program will be available soon after on HCTV’s online archives.

Gorge Dam, which halts the river in Gorge Metro Park in Cuyahoga Falls, is 400 feet wide and 60 feet tall. It was constructed almost 110 years ago to generate electricity. Hydro-electric operations ceased more than 60 years ago. Marsh’s presentation will examine the interwoven story of the dam, river and park.

Construction of Gorge Dam began in 1911.

“It’s a fascinating tale of gravity and water, of scenic beauty and contamination, and of competing economies,” she said. “Mainly, it’s the account of how our vision for use of the Gorge has evolved.

“There are real, transformative benefits of dismantling the dam and ‘freeing the falls,’ which currently lie drowned under this obsolete mass of concrete,” she added. “Gorge Dam is one of the Cuyahoga River’s biggest unresolved water-quality problems.”

Marsh will also discuss the surprising progress in the plans and funding for the dam’s removal, which may come as soon as 2024.

Elaine Marsh, Watershed Specialist for Summit Metro Parks, will be highlight Hudson Heritage Association’s October program.

“All of us should be excited by the potential benefits of the dam’s removal,” she said. “The project will restore the original grandeur of the gorge. It will also mean cleaner water, more natural beauty and a boost to recreation and the local economy.”

Marsh is a Watershed Specialist for Summit Metro Parks. In 1989, she co-founded Friends of Crooked River, a grassroots group dedicated to the Cuyahoga River. She currently serves as the organization’s president and facilitator for Canal Diversion Dam Removal.

From 1996 to 2008, she was as Project Director for Ohio Greenways. She sits on many boards and has received numerous recognitions, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ohio Environmental Council.

“The Cuyahoga River was crucial to the successful settlement and thriving growth of the Western Reserve throughout the 19th and 20th centuries,” said Chris Bach, Hudson Heritage Association President. “Returning it to its natural splendor will allow the river to again help our region and residents thrive.

“A core part of HHA’s mission is restoration, and the removal of Gorge Dam will help preserve and restore a historic waterway. We are eager to get the details from Elaine during what will certainly be a fascinating presentation.”