There's a cost-effective plan to save Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe Lake before it was drained. [photo: Caydie Heller]

If there [were] a plan to save Horseshoe Lake that addressed stormwater issues, controlled flooding, cost less, and also saved the lake, why wouldn’t our public officials request that the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) implement that plan?

The NEORSD’s plan for destroying Horseshoe Lake and turning it into wetlands is no longer the only option on the table. Now is the time to consider the alternate plan, and pause before we irrevocably damage a part of Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights that we will regret for generations. 

Friends of Horseshoe Lake (FOHSL), a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving Horseshoe Lake, retained a team of engineering and dam experts from TRC Companies, as well as land use experts, to explore alternatives and develop a financially viable plan to preserve the lake and manage floodwater.

The experts presented this plan to Cleveland Heights City Council on June 6. TRC’s team, led by engineer Shawn McGee, with decades of experience on dam projects, presented a solution that would safely manage stormwater, address environmental issues, and cost less, all while saving Horseshoe Lake. 

The FOHSL plan is one where everyone comes out a winner. According to McGee, a new dam, constructed behind the historic dam, and a reconfigured spillway would meet the goals of NEORSD, and protect the historic and cultural significance of Horseshoe Lake.

"The alternative dam can minimize the flooding happening downstream . . . and we could reduce overall costs by about $1 million to $2 million,” McGee noted.

The expert testimony focused on the benefits of the plan: it’s safe, reduces flood risk, manages stormwater, and costs less.

During the council meeting, dozens of supporters filled the room and spilled over into the standing-room-only hallway. Many spoke in support of Horseshoe Lake and commented on benefits of saving Horseshoe Lake that go beyond fiscal and environmental responsibility. 

Horseshoe Lake has always been a key part of Cleveland Heights, enjoyed by tens of thousands of residents for over a century.

One supporter said, “There’s nowhere else in Cleveland Heights where you can go, that I can think of, that you can go and have a beautiful view.” 

This is what we are fighting for. I, for one, have witnessed the beauty and serenity it offers throughout the seasons, not to mention a spot to rest for migratory waterfowl.  

The message to council was loud and clear from supporters: Save Horseshoe Lake.

In November 2021, council voted to destroy Horseshoe Lake because there was no clear alternative.

Now there is another option on the table, and residents, supporters, and FOHSL are urging council to pause and consider it. 

Penny Allen, FOHSL vice president and secretary, asked council, “If there is a plan that’s safe, controls stormwater, and costs less, but importantly saves Horseshoe Lake for its tremendous recreational, historical, wildlife, and design value, wouldn’t you consider it?” 

Cleveland Heights deserves a place like Horseshoe Lake. Now that there is an alternate plan, council should consider it as a viable way to address the concerns raised by the Sewer District and save Horseshoe Lake. To learn more, visit

Jeff Balazs

Jeffrey Balazs is craftsman, graphic designer and collaborator. He’s spent the past 30 years in Cleveland Heights, exploring and marveling at the area’s natural beauty during hikes, bike rides and kayaking, and capturing it through illustration and photography.

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Volume 15, Issue 7, Posted 5:15 AM, 06.30.2022