Signal Cleveland asked some residents of the Euclid Beach Mobile Home park to tell us what life has been like for them. One of the city’s only remaining mobile home communities is slated to close in August 2024.
Residents are awaiting relocation assistance packages from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which owns the mobile home park. The nonprofit intends to convert the 28.5-acre manufactured home community, off Lakeshore Boulevard in North Collinwood, into green space and then give it to the Cleveland Metroparks.
Resident Anthony Beard tells Signal Cleveland about what life at the park, officially known as the Euclid Beach Mobile Home Community, has meant to him.
Anthony Beard literally took a wrong turn in 2006 that probably changed his life.
His then-young children enjoyed playing at Cleveland Metroparks’ Euclid Beach Park. He had missed his usual entrance into the park and believed he had found another. With no eye-catching signage on Lakeshore Boulevard, it could have been mistaken for a service entrance.
“I had accidentally turned into the mobile home park,” he said. “My initial reaction was, ‘I’m in the wrong place. Let me turn around.’ But getting out of there was a challenge.”
The layout of the roads in the mobile home park can be a maze to an outsider. As he drove around trying to find a way out, Beard was surprised. There was a community of then about 250 manufactured homes, now about 120, tucked away off a main thoroughfare. That wasn’t all that intrigued him about Euclid Beach Mobile park. It was wooded. It was quiet. It was on Lake Erie.
There were other advantages. His parents then lived nearby in a senior citizens highrise. An avid cyclist, Beard said Lakeshore Boulevard to North Marginal Road offered a good route when he chose to bike to his downtown job. Most of all, for the then newly divorced father, the mobile home park was affordable. A rarity: affordable lakefront housing.
By 2007, Beard was a resident of the Euclid Beach Mobile Home Community.
His children – a daughter, now 21, and a son, now 20 – were thrilled. Instead of their father having to drive them to Euclid Beach Park, it was right next door whenever they stayed with him. Another son, now 9, also likes the recreational benefits of the mobile home park’s location.
Beard said his children would build sand castles at Euclid Beach. They rode their bikes through the woods and walked the trails. They enjoyed canoeing on Lake Erie with Metroparks naturalists and participated in other Metroparks’ programs.
“It’s a wonderful experience raising children in this community,” Beard said. “You’re right next to the water. It’s like living in a nature preserve, in which you coexist with all types of animals and creatures.”
In 2020, Beard paid off his mobile home and retired from a federal government job. He had worked a second job in healthcare for years and now would focus on being a self-employed provider. He was entering the next phase of a plan he had laid out when he bought the mobile home. The first phase started with making a $20,000 down payment, which was about half the purchase price of the home.
“When you’re laying that kind of money down, you’re basically taking your chips and moving them to the center of the table,” Beard said. “You’re basically saying this is my home. This is where I’m going to make my final journey in life.”
He said people would sometimes ask him how he could stake such a claim in a mobile home park. In most parks, residents can own their homes, but they can only rent the land on which their units sit. Beard said he felt confident that this was his forever home because the mobile home park had not changed hands since he lived there.
Then, in December 2021, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy bought the mobile home park for $5.8 million. In February 2023, residents learned that the nonprofit would convert the park into green space and then give the land to the Metroparks for a major redevelopment of Euclid Beach Park.
“I vowed at that moment that they are not going to get away with doing this as long as I have breath in my lungs,” Beard said. “Those of meager and middle-class means should get to live on the lake, not just the affluent.”
WRLC officials say the Euclid Beach Park project would create greater public access to the lake. Proponents of the plan also say that it would be a major development project on the city’s mostly Black East Side, where residents, public officials and others say more major development projects are needed.
The nonprofit’s officials are adamant that the mobile home park will close in about a year. They say it’s not negotiable. A $10 million grant the organization recently received from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation supports WRLC’s stance. The bulk of the grant, or $6.2 million, is earmarked for the steps that must be taken in order to shut down the mobile home park. These include offering residents market-rate prices for their homes as well as relocation assistance and hardship compensation. The grant will also pay for what is needed to return the 28.5 acres to green space, such as demolishing the homes residents sell to WRLC and abating them for asbestos when necessary.
Beard said he supports residents who choose to take the relocation assistance packages, which will be determined for each household in the coming weeks. However, he said he is among a group of residents who are fighting to remain on the lake. He said at a recent meeting of residents, “The membership said that we’re going down two tracks.”
“There are those of us who want to stay and will continue to fight,” he said. “But those who want to leave should receive generous compensation.”
Beard said at least 10 acres should be set aside for residents of a smaller mobile home park on the lakefront. He said the acreage doesn’t have to include land within the current footprint. In addition to WRLC, other major landowners on this section of the lakefront include the Metroparks and Cleveland Public Library. WRLC has already said publicly that it is not deviating from its plan to convert the mobile home park into green space. Beard said residents haven’t yet approached the Metroparks or CPL about giving land to residents.
“We live in a modern society where we can think and we can pivot and see that we should be able to do both,” he said of having an expanded Metropark and a smaller mobile home park. “We have some exciting ideas about creating an environment and mobile home community that works in conjunction with the Metroparks. We could be a pilot. Maybe we could offer things like camping spots.”
Even if residents succeed at getting one of the project’s stakeholders to give them at least 10 acres, they still will need substantial funding to operate a resident-owned mobile home park. Residents would need to raise money even if they are somehow able to remain on a portion of the current mobile home park. The mobile park’s water, sewers and other infrastructure are deteriorated and substandard.
Beard believes residents won’t have difficulty raising money should they form a resident-owned mobile home park.
Many may see Beard’s plan as being far-fetched. He sees it as a matter of principle “based on right and wrong.” He said he has no option but to lobby for a lakeside community of working-class residents and those on fixed incomes.
“We’re fighting to stay on the lake because the lake doesn’t belong to anybody,” he said. “The lake belongs to creation. So everybody should be able to share what creation has brought about.”