Capital Switching and the Socioecological Environment: Cuyahoga Valley, 1974-2020

Authors: William Hunter*, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Environment, Historical Geography
Keywords: Reconciliation Ecology, Urban Political Ecology, National Park
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 43
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Cuyahoga Valley National Park was established as a National Recreation Area in 1974, a perceived remedy to the ecological and economic crisis that was then transforming northern Ohio and the broader rust belt. The Park was born from an urban environment; the valley historically served as a site of industrial production, resource extraction and as a sink for industrial waste. It is now a site within which the socioecological fix is unfolding. Here the materially degraded landscapes of the Park, thoroughly shaped by urban processes, are not removed from circulation are in fact a central element in the overall dynamics of an always evolving capitalism. This paper suggests that the large-scale ecological restoration work in the Park is a part of the redesigning and rebuilding of the urban infrastructure beyond the formal city. In place of the direct funding one might expect in a National Park, loose regulatory conditions and neoliberalization have encouraged private capital to function in this ostensibly public space, often in the form of large public-private investments and green infrastructures. This circuit of investment includes the reconfiguration of the environment through speculative ecological restoration: compensatory and contextual mitigation, producing a resilient socio-nature within a revalorized urban park, all the while constructing new pathways for future capital investment. The good work being done in the Park with non-traditional funding represents a measurable shift of capital away from productive industrial activities to speculative restoration of the urban environment, within which the Park is deeply enmeshed

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