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Metroparks plans to drain, dredge Hinckley Lake to upgrade dam

Posted: August 31, 2017

by John Benson


The year 1927 is when Charles Lindbergh made transatlantic flight history in the Spirit of St. Louis. It’s also the year that the Hinckley Reservation dam was completed, creating the 90-acre Hinckley Lake that is still treasured by fishermen and recreational boaters. 


Now the Cleveland Metroparks is planning to upgrade the dam in the hope it will last another 90 years. This will require the draining of the lake, which reaches depths of 16 feet near the dam.


“The lake is the centerpiece for Hinckley Reservation,” said Cleveland Metroparks Chief Planning and Design Officer Sean McDermott. “It has more than done its job and withstood the test of time. And we, in maintaining our infrastructure, are looking at the next steps for the dam.”


The impetus behind the upgrade is a request by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which regulates dams in the Buckeye state. McDermott said the Hinckley Reservation dam doesn’t meet current design standards. 


The idea is to modify the dam so it won’t overtop in a probable maximum precipitation event. McDermott said such storms are described as being six times heavier than a 100-year-flood. 


“We now have more modern ways to calculate hydrology and rainfall and precipitation over areas,” McDermott said. “It’s more or less armoring the dam, which is a combination of 950 feet of earthen fill embankment and 150 feet of concrete. 


“We’re studying the armoring of the earthen embankment so that if it did overtop, it wouldn’t erode and fail. In layman’s sense, we are studying the manner in which the dam can be reinforced or reconstructed. We don’t expect any drastic changes.” 


McDermott said the entire endeavor is a proactive move that is estimated to cost between $2 million and $6 million. The Cleveland Metroparks is expected to soon name an engineer and contractor for the project. 


“The engineer can finish the study and decide on the preferred alternative, which is yet to be determined,” McDermott said. “The contractor will also be on the team. They will be hired to perform cost estimates of those alternatives, and then move forward to potentially construct the improvements.” 


Early next year, the exact plans for the dam upgrade will be announced with work likely to begin in the next two years. Other factors to consider are the timing of the project, which will include the draining of the lake and dredging. McDermott said the latter involves roughly 15 percent of the lake. 


“It’s important because we want to make sure we have proper depth for recreational boating and also for the health of the lake,” McDermott said. “The dredging will likely take place in the southern and eastern reaches in the lake.” 


Attracting roughly 800,000 visitors annually, the Hinckley Reservation features two trails, swimming, concessions, picnic areas, ledges and water activities. People are encouraged to rent canoes, kayaks, rowboats, paddleboards, paddleboats and pontoons at the Hinckley Lake Boathouse. “The message to people who utilize the park is the Metroparks looks forward to maintaining the centerpiece of the lake for decades to come,” McDermott said. 


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