For now, the Greenway is comprised of two disjointed lengths, each less than two miles long. But the long-anticipated completion of Phase 5 later this year will introduce the two, thereby giving exercise enthusiasts — walkers, joggers, cyclists, skaters, bladers, boarders and all others somewhere in between — an uninterrupted four miles of free mobility.
A big part of the connection is the Greenway’s newest bridge that was placed late last week across the community’s most famous creek behind Benny Monroe Stadium at Cleveland High School.
“The bridge is a key element toward completion of Phase 5 now under construction between Raider Drive and Tinsley Park,” according to Cameron Fisher, chairman of the Greenway board of directors whose membership is made up of civic and community leaders dedicated to the joint cause of health and hometown quality of life.
Fisher added, “When finished, Phase 5 will complete an unbroken four-mile stretch of Greenway between Mohawk Drive and Willow Street.”
The connector’s timing couldn’t be more appropriate — right in the middle of the Greenway’s observance of its 10th anniversary. A celebratory luncheon will be held Wednesday at the Leadership and Communications Conference Center of the Church of God International Offices.
Later this year, the connector will be finished and is expected to lead to an historic ribbon-cutting ceremony that will symbolize a decade’s worth of work dating back to October 2001 with the completion of Phase 1 between 20th and 25th streets.
Last week’s bridge placement was coordinated by construction crews from Excel Bridge in Ooltewah, Caldwell Paving and the Cleveland Engineering Department. The 80-foot pedestrian bridge, identical to others that span Mouse Creek up and down the length of the Greenway, was put into place with the use of a massive crane. The crosswalk was bolted onto pre-constructed concrete abutments on both sides of the creek.
As construction crews continue work on other critical steps of the connector, one of which was the recent completion of the underpass at Raider Drive, the Greenway is getting closer and closer to its first full decade of progress. Work continues on paving the newest stretch and most recently Fisher announced bids by Caldwell Paving were low enough to allow budgeted funds to be used for lighting.
Another less invasive, but highly visible part of the Greenway’s development, came recently when a Cleveland Utilities bucket truck crew completed the hanging of 25 celebratory banners along the linear park from Willow Street to Raider Drive. The colorful green, yellow and white flags are suspended from the Greenway’s ornamental light poles. They will remain through the end of 2012, Fisher said.
The banners were made possible by sponsorships that were purchased by area companies, businesses, organizations, individuals and a church.
Fisher is still beaming at how excited sponsors were to jump aboard the banner bandwagon.
“When we floated the idea to have banners to commemorate this occasion it was a relatively easy sell,” the Greenway board chairman said. “There is a real variety of organizations, businesses, individuals and even a church who participated in this promotion.”
He said the broad interest in hosting the decorative flags is symbolic of the Greenway itself.
“The mixture [of sponsors] reminds me of the kind of mix we have of individuals who take advantage of the Greenway every day,” Fisher said. “The Greenway is a project that appeals to so many people, regardless of age, gender, social or economic status, or even physical limitations.”
As its development continues, the Greenway is evolving far beyond just an exercise and fitness trail. Its transition into a true linear park is evidenced by a variety of amenities: a restroom (and a second one will become available when the Tinsley Park trail is connected as part of Phase 5), a water fountain, a playground, benches, historic markers and others.
A date for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting to celebrate the completion of the strategic connector is expected to be announced soon.