BROOKSIDE RESERVATION, located in the southwestern part of the city at Fulton Road and Denison Avenue, is one of Cleveland's oldest municipal parks. Purchased in 1894 by the Second Park Board, and initially named Brooklyn Park, the 81-acre site in wooded Big Creek Valley provided a natural setting for a playground. The grounds featured a scenic bluff overlooking the surrounding valley area, and park officials deemed the park site suitable for a variety of recreational activities, including picnicking and outdoor sports such as tennis and baseball. The Park Board had nearly doubled the property through additional purchases and donations by 1897, when it was renamed Brookside.
In his diaries from the early 1900s, then chief parks engineer WILLIAM STINCHCOMB recorded extensive improvements to the Brookside property: cinder-paved drives and paths; renovations and additions to the athletic fields; extensive grading, planting, and lawn maintenance; and the acquisition of new land for a lake and shelter house. Between 1905 and 1916, the Cleveland Zoological Park (CLEVELAND METROPARKS ZOO) was transferred from its former site at WADE PARK to the lower level of Brookside at the foot of Fulton Hill. Additional landscaping work was completed in the 1930s and 1940s, but the construction of 1-71 during the 1960s claimed a major portion of the park's forested areas.
CLEVELAND METROPARKS took over management of the park from the City of Cleveland in 1994, at which time it was renamed Brookside Reservation. As part of the transfer agreement, 25 acres of reservation land within the reservation were earmarked for future zoo expansions, although the area had not been redeveloped as of 2006.
In the fall of 1994, a set of traffic barriers and security gates installed by the Metroparks at the park's northern entrance drew protests from the adjoining neighborhoods of Archwood-Denison, Clark-Fulton, and the Stockyard; some members of the predominately poor, minority communities viewed the blockades as a kind of racial barrier, giving privileged access to the park to wealthier residents of Old Brooklyn on its opposite side. Subsequently the barriers were removed, and the Metroparks helped defuse the apparent class tension by making extensive renovations throughout the park over the following years, including the construction of an all-purpose trail winding through the park to the Zoo and improvements to the baseball and soccer fields. In 2001, the park's WWII Monument and Flagpole were rededicated in a public ceremony.
Brookside continued to draw crowds to its outdoor celebrations and sporting events in 2006, including the state's annual softball championship.