My great grandfather was a potato and sweetcorn farmer in Independence, Ohio until the 1960's, when operation began to dwindle as Gramp and Gram aged. Over the course of the 70's, they both died and my family was forced to sell the farm to the Federal Government via eminent domain in order for it to become part of the National Park system. I was just a kid and didn't understand, but all the adults were furious.
Today, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park--the only National Park in Ohio--houses some of the best preserved sections of the Ohio and Erie Canal. The National Park Service worked closely with the Cleveland Metroparks in order to seamlessly join the two parks where they abut in Brecksville, Ohio.
Although parts of the Metropark wind through commercial and industrial areas, the National Park is completely pristine. My family's farmland is free from parking lots and residential development. It is preserved, although all of the farm buildings were razed except the original farm house (built in 1850, shown with my great great grandmother Mary Vaughn Doubler in the mid-1800's above and as it looks today on the right). The ramp to the barn that my great grandfather Fred Doubler built along with his brother Dan some 70 years later is also still there. They carved "F DOUBLER" into one of the stones.
There are very, very few descendants left, but I'm still standing. And believe it or not, sometimes the government does something right. I am profoundly thankful that I lived long enough to see and understand this rare gift of preservation. When I walk over this land, I tell my kid what I remember of my great grandparents. I tell her about sweetcorn. I tell her about the arrowheads my father found here. And all my dead kin, they walk right along with us.
"Every once in a while," I say as we step through the lush forest next to the riverbed, "the good guys win." My dad his dad and my great grandfather nod.
These two parks are so brilliant in their execution, they bring me to my knees. I tried to capture some of what I love about this little strip of earth in my column* this week. So come with me, and walk along the towpath of the Ohio and Erie Canal.
*For my new readers, I am a regular print columnist in the Cleveland Free Times. "Rainy Day Woman" publishes (for the most part) every other week. I always link the column here in the Owner's Manual, although my introductions aren't always this elaborate.
Some companion photos to the column:
Brecksville Road Bridge and wooden CSX railroad spur traverse the Cuyahoga River.
What lies between Interstate 77 and the Ohio and Erie Canal.
CSX Shortline Bridge and the Southwest Interceptor traverse the Hidden Valley overhead. The smaller blue pipe is a gasoline pipeline on it's way to the BP Bradley Road terminal, where guys with shirts with name patches swing valves and keep the petro in the pipes. One of those guys is my very own Goat!
A backhoe moves through the scene overlooking the Cuyahoga River.
The Goat takes a break under the massive Interstate-480 Bridge, although no picture does this structure justice.