The stretch of nearly two miles between Raider Drive and Willow Street has become one of the most popular recreational venues in the area. On any given day when the sun is shining and the temperature is mild, literally hundreds can be found walking, running, pushing a stroller, biking or walking the dog.
On Dec. 14, our community was blessed to cut the ribbon on Phase 4 of our Greenway located between Mohawk Drive and Tinsley Park. It is a critical link in a 6-phase stretch of Greenway between Mohawk and the Village Green Town Center. Very soon Phase 5, which will stretch from Raider Drive to Tinsley Park, will begin and it will connect Phases 3 and 4 resulting in an unbroken stretch of nearly four miles where walkers, runners and bikers will not have to cross any streets in their recreational pursuits.
In surveys conducted about quality of life and recreational opportunities in our city, the Greenway was rated one of the most popular. Research across the country has revealed that property values rise in communities that have Greenways within their borders. Companies looking to relocate take into consideration the recreational options, of which Greenways hover at the top. The Greenway is free and enjoyed by people of all ages, sizes, shapes and economic backgrounds.
It was more than a decade ago when talk first surfaced of a Greenway in Cleveland and Bradley County. Local leaders pitched the idea as they spoke of other cities that experienced what we now enjoy. In the summer of 2001, the first strip of Greenway was laid between 20th and 25th streets. The early visionaries cast the vision and businesses partnered in the project, including the first pedestrian bridge over Mouse Creek donated by Bank of Cleveland. This stretch stood alone for four years until Phase 2 took the Greenway north to Raider Drive. Phase 3 from 20th to Willow Street was dedicated in 2008, followed by Phase 4 a few weeks ago.
What makes the Greenway in Cleveland so successful is its virtually non-existent opposition. Since the Cleveland City Council and Bradley County Commission each gave $24,000 matching grants to Phase 1, they have been on board. State support has also existed since Phase 1 with two grants from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), and three major grants from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) totaling more than $1.7 million. This figure doesn’t include the cost of passages under three bridges which TDOT agreed to build when they were widening bridges at Inman, 25th and Mouse Creek.
The Bradley County Healthy Community Initiative (HCI) awarded two grants totaling $173,000. In addition, several groups and individuals have funded pieces of the Greenway experience such as more than two dozen benches, trees, a playground paid for by People for Care and Learning and an entrance portal and park built and donated by the Cleveland Rotary Club. In addition, Cleveland Department of Public Works crews saved us thousands of dollars when they supplied most of the labor for Phase 4, allowing the HCI grant dollars to extend the Greenway further than anticipated.
To build a Greenway of this length and magnitude takes the benevolent spirit of many property owners. While a vast majority of the Greenway traverses parcels which cannot be built upon because of proximity to Mouse Creek, it still requires the willingness of owners connected to the Greenway path to agree to its presence upon their land.
Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of the last decade of progress has been the cooperation of property owners. No one has refused to participate. Many have contributed to the project while others have donated the right-of-way. On Phase 1, the Church of God International offices paid for two sidewalks to connect the Greenway to their parking lots. First Tennessee Bank allowed for the construction of a playground and use of their parking area. And on Phase 4, Home Depot started the project a few years ago when they donated over $100,000 to build the first section adjacent to their property on Paul Huff Parkway. This is just a sampling of the many who have contributed to the success of our Greenway.
2011 promises to be perhaps the most exciting year as Phase 5 gets under way and ultimately connects the previous phases. Once complete, the Greenway will look toward the long-term goal of reaching the Hiwassee River. To do so will take the desire and cooperation of even more property owners and those who recognize how beneficial the continuation of the linear park is to our community.