There was a time a couple of weeks ago when I looked at our presumed itinerary and had momentary panic that we were going to be in Cleveland at the same time as the Republican National Convention. Although I love history, due to the unique and potentially volatile nature of this event, I wanted us to stay far away from it. It was a relief to know we were scheduled in and out a few days prior to the RNC beginning so we didn’t have to re-route or change plans.
We wanted to go through Cleveland to see Elizabeth (one of our extended daughters from way back), her husband Dan and their two boys.
Elizabeth and baby Mark – He’s not looking too happy at the moment.
We had a delightful visit and, once again, are so glad that this lifestyle allows us to visit people we wouldn’t otherwise see.
While we were in the area, we took the opportunity to visit nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This park preserves 33,000 acres between Cleveland and Akron, protecting the river valley from development, and providing green space for those living in the cities.
We road the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad on a leisurely trip through the valley. There was an app that allowed me to get periods of narration along the route.
The next day I was listening to a Memory Palace podcast when, serendipitously, the topic was the Cuyahoga River. That 9 minute podcast link is here…..Memory Palace oil-water. Of course, the podcast prompted some additional research.
The Cuyahoga River, flowing north through the valley, through Cleveland, and into Lake Erie, was once one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Due to decades of oil refinery leakage and waste, the river caught fire 13 times between 1868 and 1969, killing workers and destroying property. Over time the pollution was so bad that the river supported no fish and wildlife between Akron and Cleveland and was described as “oozing” instead of flowing.
Although the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire was easily extinguished due to practice and improved technique, people were beginning to get concerned about the environment. That last fire was the “spark” to create the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act in the United States. The Cuyahoga River water quality has improved, and fish and wildlife have made a partial comeback, but even all these years later there is more recovery needed.
As we were driving east through Cleveland, we saw evidence of the upcoming Republican National Convention.
We talked with several people throughout our stay who had experienced various levels of security checks and workplace inconvenience. Our conversations were general in nature and didn’t address the unique aspects of this particular event.
Throughout Ohio we saw this sign along the highway and tried and tried to think of what it would mean. When I finally looked it up and found it to mean “No Hazardous Materials” we had a “duh” moment!
We have moved east but are still in Ohio. More on that next time.
I recall stories of the lakes and rivers in that region catching fire. We’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we?? When are you two due in Vermont?
It was interesting to me that neither the national park or the railroad literature talked about the fires or pollution history at all. Even though it is a very sad history there is improvement to celebrate. I would have totally missed that history without the podcast.