Cleveland Botanical Garden wins lawsuit over land use

Abigail Wells, Staff Reporter

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The Cleveland Botanical Garden (CBG) recently won a lawsuit pertaining to the use of its Wade Park property. Jeptha Wade, one of Western Union Telegraph’s founders, gifted 63 acres of land—now known as Wade Park—to the city of Cleveland to use as a public park in 1882. Descendants and beneficiaries of Wade claimed the botanical garden misused the land by fencing in outdoor gardens and charging admission and parking fees.

According to the terms of the original Wade Deed, the land must be used as a public park and fencing not along the western and southern borders must be wrought-iron. The deed stated the land must be “open to the public at all times” and used “for no other purpose than a public park.”

Judge Sherrie Miday ruled on the side of CBG, stating the concept of a public park is “forever changing.” Miday adjudicated that charging for admission and parking does not violate the deed’s terms.

“CBG’s charging of admission fee and having specific hours of operation does not mean that the property is ‘closed off’ to the general public,” Miday wrote in the opinion.

Additionally, CBG argued that only adjacent landowners can enforce the fencing terms outlined in the Wade Deed. Miday agreed with the botanical garden’s justification.

In the past, the Wade Deed has threatened the construction of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Perkins Wildlife Center. The plans for the project included an eight-foot wooden fence that potentially violated the deed; however, Cleveland’s Planning Commission ultimately approved the design.

University Circle Inc. (UCI) and the city of Cleveland were both named in the lawsuit, because the city owns and leases the land gifted by the deed to UCI and CBG.