The Small Town the River Helped to Build

If you’ve ever gone through or visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park, you might have seen a small town called Peninsula. Depending on which way you’re coming from, you’re greeted by a white church, a small police station, a few shops and the Winking Lizard restaurant — a popular place for locals.

The town gets a lot of visitors from people kayaking down the Cuyahoga River and those traveling to different locations in the park. That’s where it actually gets its name — the river cuts and curves around that area, leaving little Peninsulas, according to the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

But earlier this summer, Peninsula officials announced the town is going broke and has to cut 10% of the budget by 2023, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.

With all these visitors, why exactly is the town running out of money? It’s been a popular spot for river wonderers for a long time, as far back as during the 1800s. Kayakers would stop there to rest and take in the sights, according to the Conservancy. Peninsula was known for its flour mill and building boats in the 1800s. In 1986, the town hit its peak for boat producing; workers created 33 boats for the Civil War. Back then, the smell of wood and paint and the sound of hammers would fill the air around Peninsula, an ode to the hardworking townsfolk. But in the early 1900s, the flour mill burned down, and boat production started to become a larger-scale manufacturing business across the nation. Both of those industries suddenly vanished from the area.

That could be what helped led to Peninsula’s current budget problem. Sure, there are nice shops and activities around the park, but the bigger problem is the town’s residents. The population has gradually declined over the last few years, with currently 558 people living in the town, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s down from 615 residents in 2017.

Screenshot_20191103-070240_Instagram
The conductor on CVNP’s Polar Express telling a story about the Boston Mill Ski Resort, near where the flour mill used to stand. “It was the brightest fire anyone had ever seen around here.” December 2017. LYDIA TAYLOR/KENT STATE UNIVERSITY

 

The other issue could be the seasons. Winter is when activity slows down — many trails can be closed because of snow or ice, and less people go hiking in the winter in general. And clearly, it’s too cold to go canoeing or kayaking. CVNP’s Polar Express and winter train rides could help bring more visitors to the town, but the revenue received may not be enough to counteract the $120,000 more they expect to spend over the budget.

How will town officials combat it’s looming financial deficit? Check out the update in the in the next few weeks. We’ll introduce you to the town — the residents, the officials and its history.

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