Unofficially, it stands as the final leg of Phase 5 construction which was launched last summer. Contractors will remain in the area for the next few weeks for final cleanup and site wrapup, according to Cameron Fisher, Greenway board chairman who was the first to step foot — in this case, a pair of running shoes — on the new stretch last Thursday.
An avid jogger, Fisher wanted to get a firsthand look at the connecting strip and to get a personal feel for the impact of the Greenway’s new uninterrupted flow. Previously, Greenway users had been limited to separate sections stretching from Willow Drive to Raider Drive, and a northern strip between Mohawk Drive behind The Home Depot and Mouse Creek Road.
But no more.
“While there is still a punch list of final items to complete the project, the connection of this final piece of the trail is a milestone for the Greenway,” Fisher said. “When a quarter-mile strip of concrete was laid between Mohawk and Paul Huff Parkway many years ago, it sparked the realization that we could have a four-mile, nonstop stretch of Greenway sooner rather than later.”
He said the northern section between Mohawk and Mouse Creek Road represents Phase 4. Two years ago, a pedestrian bridge was installed over Mouse Creek. This connected the Greenway to Tinsley Park behind the ballfields.
“Since last summer, Phase 5 has been under construction and has included a passage under Raider Drive, concrete walkways behind Cleveland High School’s Benny Monroe Stadium, a pedestrian bridge over Mouse Creek and access trails from CreekSide shopping plaza and Northwood subdivision,” Fisher explained. “It has also included new lighting along the entire 1.17 miles of new Greenway.”
Caldwell Paving was awarded the Phase 5 contract and began the extensive project on schedule; however, the unprecedented flooding on Labor Day 2011 severely damaged much of the early work, including progress that was made by crews to develop the connecting underpass at Raider Drive.
Although the connecting stretch of Greenway has not been open to users, Fisher said trail enthusiasts have eagerly kept up with the progress of Phase 5.
“Since construction began, the community has been traversing the length of Phase 5,” he said. “It has been hard to curb the curiosity and anticipation as each new section has been added. Walkers, runners and bikers will now have a smooth surface through Tinsley Park and for the length of the Greenway from Mohawk Drive to Willow Street.”
In perspective, that’s a clean stretch of exercise opportunity from near the P&G Duracell plant all the way to the Cleveland downtown area at Willow Street.
Fisher is just as excited about the accompanying improvements to Tinsley Park that will enhance the Greenway. They weren’t necessary a part of the Greenway package, but their timing will add even more to the linear park’s attraction to area community residents, he noted.
“Improvements to the Tinsley playground, restrooms and water fountain, just off the trail, were completed within the last month,” Fisher pointed out. “While the Greenway and the park improvements are not connected as far as funding and grants are concerned, the timing could not be better.”
The neighboring improvements provide even more access points — or trailheads — to the Greenway.
“The new and improved Tinsley Park playground and its parking area now serve as an additional trailhead, or launching point,” Fisher noted. “It is one of many places the community can access the Greenway along the four-mile stretch.”
Although the new connecting strip of Greenway is now open to community users, Fisher urged enthusiasts to be careful until the cleanup is finished.
“Patrons of the new section of Greenway are warned to use caution over the next few weeks as construction crews will still be on the site for cleanup and final completion,” he said.
Phase 5 included the Greenway’s connection from Raider Drive north to Tinsley Park. The park’s existing trail was the longest portion of the phase. The trail has been in place since the 1970s when the recreation center was first established. It was eventually named in honor of Cleveland City Commissioner Kenneth Tinsley who headed the Parks & Recreation Department at the time the park was first developed.
The Greenway Board is scheduled to meet June 14, at which time a date is expected to be set for an informal ribbon cutting for the Phase 5 completion, Fisher said.
Further lengthening of the Greenway, in both northern and southern directions, is still being discussed; however, no distinct plans have been set in motion.
“Our community is blessed to have a Greenway that compares wonderfully to most,” Fisher said. “I encourage current users to enjoy the new, four-mile-long trail; and, I urge anyone who has never used it before to get out and experience for themselves what others have enjoyed for the past decade.”
Of his feelings about the Phase 5 completion, Fisher simply offered, “It’s awesome, just awesome.”