CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Metroparks Board of Commissioners approved a plan on Thursday to forbid swimming and "body contact with water" in 21 locations, including Euclid Beach/Villa Angela. The vote came despite pleas from a crowded room of spectators opposed to restrictions at the east side beach, where Clevelanders have been swimming for decades.
Tension was high at the meeting following the citation of a man whose daughter was in the water at Villa Angela Saturday.
“As old as the city of Cleveland is, that’s how long we've used that lakefront. Our city is wedded to the lakefront. Now we're told in 2015, not only can we not swim at Euclid Beach and Villa Angela, but we can’t even come in the water,” Cleveland City Councilman Mike Polensek said. “Unless someone can show me there are sharks or piranhas in that water, I don’t understand that policy.”
While opening a section of Euclid Beach/Villa Angela to swimmers in the spring, park officials said they discovered dangerous debris on the lake bottom, including rusty nails and metal pipes sticking out of concrete. Officials said the debris, along with uneven underwater slopes, makes entering the water hazardous.
“We have got to make sure this is really safe, and now we know it is not safe,” said Dan Moore, President of the Board of Park Commissioners.
Chief Ranger Dan Veloski said rangers are patrolling the beach to “educate” visitors about the "no body contact" rule. Signs at Euclid Beach/Villa Angela indicate no swimming, but do not say "no wading" or "no contact" with water. Officials said it’s too soon to say if they will change the signage, adding that’s why rangers are speaking with visitors.
“If someone reaches into very shallow water for a piece of beach glass or they're stepping along the edge and their feet touch the water, we understand that,” Veloski said. “They will not be cited for that. There's been one citation written this spring and summer so far in Cleveland Metroparks for a swimming violation.”
William Carroll, 44, of Cleveland, was handcuffed and issued a $150 citation for prohibited swimming and failure to comply with a lawful order on Saturday. An incident report stated his 6-year-old daughter was in the water when Carroll refused to get her out and became combative, using “an aggressive tone." The report said he “demanded” he be given a citation. Carroll declined comment to Fox 8, but his wife spoke at the meeting Thursday.
“As much as I regret this happening to my family, I’m glad now the community knows you're criminalizing touching the water at the only east-side beach and rangers were enforcing a policy you had not yet approved,” Kris Carroll said, adding that her daughter was standing in 4-inch-deep water and has been traumatized by the incident. She called on the board to be more transparent and more creative with solutions that would allow swimming at the beach.
“He was standing up for his rights and the rights of the community. She was not swimming, and your policy at the time said ‘no swimming.’”
Metroparks leaders emphasized the water restriction is temporary, and they're awaiting Army Corps of Engineers approval to remove debris and add fresh sand at Euclid Beach/Villa Angela this summer. Once permits are approved, the process would take two weeks, officials said. The meeting also prompted the park system to begin developing other near-term solutions.
“Cleveland Metroparks’ ultimate goal is to give the community something they can be proud of, and we don’t want to knee jerk or do something in haste that could put that long term goal at jeopardy,” Chief Operating Officer Joe Roszak said.
The metroparks is working on plans for a more permanent swimming solution at the beach to be implemented by next summer, Moore said.