The winding, four-mile fitness trail is becoming a legal nonprofit and the detailed paperwork is now being completed to establish it as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity.
Why is this big news for Greenway enthusiasts?
For users, it gives hope for added amenities that will enhance the Greenway “experience,” many of which have been sought by the very people who use it.
For contributors, it provides a much-needed outlet for tax-exempt donations that in the short and long term will pay for expansions, improvements and new features that will attract even more users and keep them coming.
For health, it offers opportunity for novice users to adopt active lifestyles that give less favor to the couch and TV, and more to heart-healthy, physical fitness; and with improved health can come less health care expense.
For pedestrians, it serves as a reliable, safe and free mode of transportation; this is because the local Greenway is no longer just a paved fitness trail for seekers of good health. More and more its length is serving as a connector from Point A to Point B. For those unfamiliar with its course, the Greenway now stretches all the way from Willow Street near downtown at its southernmost end north to Mohawk Drive near The Home Depot.
For homeowners, it will create potential because the world of real estate is learning quickly that homes in the path of a Greenway will increase in value; ours is no exception.
For community, it adds yet another feather in the hat of a promising Cleveland and Bradley County hometown whose diversity and economic growth are becoming the envy of many in the state, the Southeast and across the country.
Cameron Fisher, longtime chairman of the Greenway Board of Directors who has dedicated much of his civic side to promoting the linear park’s cause, explains the decision to become a nonprofit and to seek tax-exempt status is because of activities over the past few months. Frankly, more groups, companies and perhaps even individuals are expressing an interest in financing future projects, but they need the incentive of tax breaks which donating to a 501(c)(3) entity can provide.
Also, because of limited, and more competitive, state and federal grants — many of which helped to get the Greenway to its current level of quality over the past few years — the facility’s board understands that private gifts must now become a viable part of any long-term strategy.
In Fisher’s words, “We are at a place in the life of the Greenway where we will be pursuing more donations and gifts to increase the quality of the Greenway experience.”
In a perfect world, unending state and federal support would continue to grow the Greenway and to promote its community benefits. But these are imperfect times and local, state and federal budget crunches have forced tough decisions and spending cutbacks.
Yet, that’s OK because the Greenway is a local project used by local people who benefit from the willingness and foresightedness of local organizations and civic-minded businesses.
Local and outside government funding have partnered to make the Greenway what it is today. It is appropriate that our community’s assets — that is, our people, our businesses and our civic leaders — assume a pivotal role in the Greenway’s future.
This is done through private donations, sponsorships and gifts, all of which are better encouraged by a linear park that is nonprofit and tax-exempt.
We applaud the Greenway board for this decision. It is the right direction and it is coming at the right time.
With nonprofit status will come any number of opportunities for the Greenway.