Like so many parts of the city and the nation, Clark Field was once a farm—a swampy but arable plot stretching from Auburn Avenue to the Cuyahoga River. In the late 1940s, the city of Cleveland bought 67 acres of the farm to use as a recreation area for area residents. For the next three years, the city filled in the swampy areas. On immediately adjoining land, the federal government continued to maintain garages stocked with army surplus material. These 17 acres were later added to the park and the garages were removed.
In 1951 the City of Cleveland allocated $75,000 for a Clark Field play area, a football field and two baseball diamonds. Later, a stadium was built with concession stands and restrooms. For several decades, Lincoln High School and Cleveland Central Catholic High School played football games on Friday nights and often practiced there during the week. Tennis courts were built and children were enrolled in city-sponsored tennis leagues and tournaments. Every child in the program received a free tennis racket and lessons.
Over the years, the field deteriorated and the stadium was demolished. Concurrent with the depopulation of Tremont, park use plummeted. Baseball teams still played there (Little League, men’s leagues, a Republic Steel team), but the park’s principal features became discarded tires, empty beer bottles, drug paraphernalia and danger. Large gaps appeared in the tennis courts. Clark Field became a dumping ground and the place to go to burn a car.
In 2001, area residents banded together to take the park back. Friends of Clark Field was formed in 2002—in collaboration with the Mentor-Castle-Clark block club, Kent State Urban School of Design, and the City of Cleveland’s Parks and Recreation Department and Research, Planning and Development Departments. The new organization developed a master plan focused on cleaning up the park, bringing back recreation activities and maximizing safety. More than 100 trees were planted, a basketball court was added, and waste receptacles, picnic tables and benches made from recyclable materials were installed. Friends of Clark Field also worked to bring the first dog park to the city.
From 2012 to 2014, friends of Clark Field held regular free events for children and families. Funded by grants, Clark Field hosted Friday night movies, Easter egg hunts, Halloween parties, arts and crafts days, and family nights with ice cream, snow cones, popcorn, balloons, face painting, free books, pizza, apples and entertainment. Flag football teams began using Clark Field. High school baseball and men’s and women’s softball teams played weekly games. High school football practices returned. Flower and tree planting continued, along with regular maintenance and cleanup days. Under the aegis of the Cleveland Metroparks, plans were laid for a Towpath Trail Extension, which will ring the western and northern borders of Clark Field, running from the northern entrance of Steelyard Commons to Literary Avenue.
In 2015, the City of Cleveland stopped issuing permits for events and sports at Clark Field so soil testing could be undertaken in preparation for additional park upgrades. Unfortunately, EPA tests revealed that several areas required soil reclamation—a slow and costly process. Consequently, the flow of traffic and events slowed significantly. Tests continue as of this writing. However, members of Friends of Clark Field are confident that—once remediation efforts are completed, the master plan fully implemented, and the Towpath Trail completed—Clark Field will reclaim and most likely exceed the significant progress achieved in the previous one and a half decades.