By Stephanie Schloss

Background on Horseshoe and Lower Lakes

This past month, the Shaker Heights city council voted to remove the dam at Horseshoe Lake and it has created a lot of tension. Is their decision a good one? There are two distinctly different points of view:. Supporters of saving Shaker Lakes are people who do not want the dam to be removed, but repaired. Supporters of removing the dam at Horseshoe Lake want a dam to be built at the Lower Lake instead of repairing Horseshoe Lake. 

To Save Shaker Lakes

Shaker Lakes is home to a vastly diverse aquatic ecosystem. There are around 25 different bird species. You may have seen a heron looking for some dinner! Bird watchers have plenty to see just in their hometown. Sights like these will not be evident in the generations to come, now that the dam will be removed.  

The environment is not a choice. Frequently, conclusions are drawn based upon the influence directly from money. The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes and the Doan Brook Watershed both support the removal of the dam. Those organizations receive funding from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD). The NEORSD have also chosen to support the removal of the dam. 

“Ecosystem service” is how ecosystems contribute to human well-being. A day at the lake brings people together. Families on a walk, runners breezing by with their dog, and the eldery out for some fresh air are all examples of how residents use and enjoy the landmark. The attraction of having such a lovely place for camaraderie makes Shaker Heights and the areas surrounding it very welcoming. The equivalent of Shaker further south is Chagrin Falls. Chagrin Falls would not be the same without the falls. This removal of Horseshoe Lake is exactly what is happening to Shaker. 

A common claim that a “Save Horseshoe Lake” supporter would rebuke is: 

“The brook will restored to its natural state” 

Their response would be along the lines of: 

The dam is manmade, and has been at Horseshoe Lake for 170 years, ever since the Shakers built it. It is part of our hometown’s history. The emphasis of dams disturbing the natural process does not pose huge threats. 

To remove the dam

The dam at Horseshoe Lake was built in 1852 by the Shakers. The purpose of the dam was to generate power for a new woolen mill. Now, nearly 170 years later, the dam at Horseshoe Lake is dangerous to the community. The dam is actively deteriorating and sinkholes are propagating, therefore, repairing it would be very expensive. Today, it is no longer effective and does not help mitigate flooding. The dam is too far from being effective, and fixing it would not be cost effective. We can not repair the dam because it is so out of date. 

There are four possible solutions to this issue:

  1. No dam at Horseshoe and Lower Lakes
  2. No dam at Horseshoe, Class 1 dam at lower Lakes
  3. Class 1 dam at Horseshoe lake, no Lower Lake dam
  4. Class 1 dam at Horseshoe Lake and Lower Lakes

Maximum storage water to the region. $28.3 million dollar funded by the NEORSD. 

There will no longer be a permanent lake at Horseshoe, but plants will restore the area.

For the Future

There are many more aspects of the Horseshoe Lake project. For example, the effect on wildlife. The detailed design for Horseshoe’s future is estimated to be completed by summer of 2023, implying that this transition will take many years to complete. I hope that you learn of the lovely place HB calls home.