2014: Designing Dredge – Re-Envisioning the Toledo Riverfront

The city of Toledo is currently reconsidering a series of highly visible landscapes along its river waterfront.  These sites are either undergoing construction due to the installation of large stormwater mitigation infrastructure or were small dredge storage facilities that have reached design capacity.  In both cases, these landscapes have the potential to be repositioned as a series of unique and highly valuable sites along the Maumee River, amassing over 170 acres.  The competition reaches out to designers and planners of all ages and abilities and calls for ideas that re-envision the role of the riverfront in Toledo and how this new role can embrace the realities of dredging while enhancing the overall quality of public space within the city.




In order to maintain navigation channels in the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence system, approximately 3 million cubic yards of material must be removed from the United States federal shipping channels each year. With increasing ship size, decreasing water levels and serious deficiencies in upland sediment management, this dredging operation is likely to continue indefinitely. Almost 1/3 of this dredged material from the Great Lakes Basin comes from the Maumee Bay, near the city of Toledo, Ohio. Situated on the shallow, western end of Lake Erie, historic Toledo was the product of large dredging and ditching operations in the 1800s to drain what was then the Black Swamp and allow development to occur. Today, this process of sediment management is still essential in order to keep the valuable and growing Toledo port industry functioning properly. It is estimated that up to 1 million cubic yards of material must be removed from the federal shipping channel each year in the Toledo harbor / Maumee Bay. Currently a good deal of this material is deemed safe and acceptable for open-water placement back into the lake. Smaller percentages are placed in confined disposal facilities or beneficially re-used. The subject of open-water placement is contentious, with speculations of its contributions to phosphorus loading and algal blooms in Lake Erie. While the immense volume of material and limited containment areas in Toledo may require open-lake disposal to remain part of the solution, there is strong pressure to find ways of minimizing it.

Stormwater Infrastructure

The City of Toledo is also well underway in addressing the stormwater management concerns it and many other Great Lakes Cities face. Mandated to reduce Combined Sewer Overflow Events by the EPA, Toledo and many other cities have begun implementing large stormwater management projects. In Toledo, due to the early EPA mandate, many of these management projects come in the form of hard or “Grey” infrastructure as opposed to “Green” infrastructure. The process of installing these projects (large, underground stormwater storage pipes) will require the temporary excavation and partial demolition of two current park spaces within the city (Edison Park and International Park).

Riverfront Development

The City of Toledo is slowly redirecting itself back to the river. A collection of recent and proposed projects attempt to leverage the Maumee river as a resource. Some of these include the proposed Marina District development project, the Maumee Bike Trail, The National Museum of the Great Lakes, the Imagination Station, Renovations to Promenade Park the Marina District and the Middlegrounds Metropark. Projects of this type are indicative of the importance of the water’s edge in Toledo. These civic assets share this edge with considerable industrial property managed by the Lucas County Port Authority. The port of Toledo is ranked 7th in the Great Lakes in total tonnage and handles almost 11 million tons of cargo annually. It is estimated that the port generates over $500M dollars in personal income and supports 7,000 jobs. Finding ways to cohabit the riverfront with this essential regional industry is a necessary and ongoing challenge.

The Program

The program of the competition should focus on the reconsideration of riverfront land in the city of Toledo. The design and programming of these new waterfront sites is quite open to the participants, however, the use of dredge material in some capacity is required. Projects could consider residential or commercial development, parks and recreational programs, water management, habitat creation, research, or all of the above. While it is assumed that these sites will remain “public”, the level and types of accessibility remain at the discretion of the design teams. Projects that explore new ways of managing or incorporating dredge material are highly encouraged. Regionally proposed and supported projects such as the Maumee River Bikeway could also be taken into consideration. It is not necessary for project teams to address all 5 sites, however, be reminded that a core agenda of the competition is the envisioning of a transformed riverfront.

The only piece of required program for the competition is the placement and design of a Dredge Research Site. This site will be the location of a series of ongoing research projects that explore the possibilities of dredge material and its uses. The type of research is open to speculation by the design teams, but de-watering experiments, plant growth studies and admixing operations would all be likely. The research site is intended to also serve as an education location where residents, contractors and other interested parties can learn about dredging, dredge material management, and beneficial re-use. The design of this area should prioritize the relationship between dredge material and the public. By default, the Dredge Research Site should be located at the Riverside site (see below), but other locations are possible should they align with a larger design agenda.

The Details

The Sites

Edison Park: 24 acres –  Former Soil Dump: Situated directly below the new Toledo Skyway Bridge, and in very close proximity to the city center, Edison Park has a rich collection of possible futures. While its history as a dump site could provide structural challenges, It is one of the only sites in consideration that could logically support development in a traditional sense. The proposed stormwater infrastructure installation at Edison Park will govern where development (if desired) could occur. As a rule, no physical structures should be placed over this infrastructure.

International Park: 25 acres – City Park. Once home to the James M Schoonmaker Museum Ship, International park now sits relatively vacant. Like Edison Park, International Park could also conceptually hold traditional development.

Penn 7: 60 acres (12 acres currently submerged) – Former CDF

Penn 8: 28 acres – Former CDF

Riverside: 36 acres – Former CDF

These three sites were once disposal areas of dredge material. This fact makes their development difficult as the soil there has very little bearing capacity. All three of these sites could however contain recreation, habitat, research and other light, less intense uses. Due to its current dredge re-use operation, possible future home for an organic waster recycling facility and adjacency to Riverside Park, the Riverside site is the most logical location for the Dredge Research Site.

The Dredge Material

The dredge material available for the sites will be transported from CDF Site #3 on the eastern edge of the river mouth by truck. This material will be considered de-watered and safe when it arrives on site. The amount available will be considered unlimited. In its raw state, slopes of 1:5 are considered maximum, but explorations in structure and reinforcement are encouraged. The dredge material pulled from the Maumee is also extremely high in silt, significantly impeding its drainage characteristics and bearing capacity. Recent beneficial re-use project have shown the material to be quite productive as a growing medium. Projects that consider the particular qualities of the sediment will be favored over those that simply treat it as ubiquitous soil.