The resulting linear park, whose last phase doubled the recreational pleasure for health and outdoor enthusiasts, now provides an uninterrupted pedestrian, running or cycling path from its southernmost point at Willow Street near downtown to its northernmost extreme at Mohawk Drive near The Home Depot.
Yet another phase awaits on the southern horizon as the Greenway board works to negotiate easements with property owners from Willow Street to The Village Green. Once plans are in place, negotiations are complete and funding is secured, the Greenway’s southern run will extend to Inman Street which was part of the trail’s original design some 11 years ago when planners first began the visionary project.
In the meantime, a seven-acre property donation north of Mohawk Drive by the Andrew Bennett family will enable the Greenway to stretch another quarter mile once funding is in place. Preliminary engineering is under way. The “Mohawk Extension,” as it is being billed, will connect several neighborhoods near Mouse Creek Road to the Greenway.
As board members and Greenway volunteers continue to look for ways to stretch the linear park at both ends, plenty of opportunity for trail enhancements exist on the 3.92 miles in between.
“I am pleasantly surprised at the number of requests from groups and organizations who approach us about sponsoring items on the Greenway,” according to Cameron Fisher, Greenway board chairman whose community volunteerism — including his Greenway leadership role — has become iconic over the years.
Fisher stressed the board is always looking for ways to further enhance the Greenway experience and plenty of volunteers and community leaders are working to make it happen.
“The best projects are those that provide a benefit to everyone,” Fisher said. “Projects that honor someone are certainly welcomed, but they must be more than just a plaque of commemoration. So far, we have been blessed with donors who have understood the purpose behind enhancing the Greenway experience along with honoring someone.”
The Greenway board’s shopping list for future projects is extensive; however, the group must also be selective especially in regard to everyday wear and tear.
“Items or projects should be things that are all-weather and can tolerate being under water for short periods because the Greenway has sure been under water,” Fisher chuckled. “But, about the only thing that has washed away from a donated project has been mulch.”
Like most greenways across America that run parallel to an existing body of water, Cleveland’s linear park flanks Mouse Creek and crosses the waterway via pedestrian bridges at several points, and it tunnels under multiple streets and intersections. This puts the fitness trail in the path of flash flooding during periods of heavy rainfall.
“Once an item has been installed on the Greenway, it becomes public property and becomes the responsibility of the Cleveland Parks & Recreation Department,” he said.
These are the crews that work tirelessly, and sometimes in conjunction with public works, to keep the track clean and cleared of debris.
“We would love to add more historic markers,” Fisher said. “The two we have on the Greenway cost about $1,500 each. We have about five or six topics already written, just waiting for a donor to fund them.”
The Greenway’s largest investments have been the restrooms and playgrounds.
“Future restrooms and playgrounds can vary greatly in cost based on amount of equipment,” Fisher said. “Playgrounds can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $125,000. We now have plans in hand for future restrooms and simple variations to these plans can alter the cost up or down.”
Fisher pointed out potential donors for these larger projects have the option of pooling their resources as opposed to taking on the entire financing initiative themselves.
“If an organization wanted to contribute to a larger project, such as a restroom or playground, there could perhaps be a partnership with another organization,” he said.
He also spoke of another significant need.
“There is a real opportunity for businesses or organizations to fund a destination picnic area where families and groups could celebrate birthdays or other occasions in a beautiful outdoor setting,” Fisher explained. “Chattanooga’s Riverpark has some terrific examples — some even with outdoor fireplaces — and it is something this community could really use, especially in such a heavily used space as the Greenway.”
Over the years, many donors — groups and individuals — have stepped up on behalf of the Greenway because they believe in its longterm contribution to the community’s quality of life, Fisher noted. Two municipal departments have been instrumental in the Greenway’s evolution as well.
“Cleveland Utilities has been very cooperative in working with us to search for nearby water lines or electrical connections when needed,” Fisher said. “The Cleveland Department of Public Works has been more than willing to pitch in where needed on the larger projects.”
CU crews have also aided with the hanging of Greenway sponsorship banners atop light poles.
Although the Greenway’s priority is two-legged users, planners aren’t turning a deaf ear to the needs of the four-legged variety. Here too are opportunities, Fisher noted.
“A couple of veterinary offices have contacted us in the past about projects related to pets, such as the pet fountain [which now exists],” he said. “A dog park is a real need so perhaps a veterinary office, or maybe even a group of them, would be interested in partnering together. No one knows what benefits pets more than a veterinarian.”
Fisher is just as enthused about the potential for new bench designs on the Greenway that are being planned by the linear park’s newest group of volunteers, the Greenway Public Arts Committee. GPAC’s first leap into adding artwork to the trail came last year with the installation of “Sitting Tall,” a massive yellow chair designed by local artist Josh Coleman. More plans are in GPAC’s hopper, but all will require funding.
“I am excited about the new concept for the benches,” Fisher said. “This will incorporate native stone and will be designed by a local artist. If the concept works, each bench will be totally different and therefore a unique donation by the donor to the Greenway experience.”
GPAC chairman is Tara Brown, a dedicated community volunteer who also chairs the Cleveland Bradley Public Library board.
Fisher praised GPAC’s work to date and pointed out the committee is long on ideas, but short on funding. A community event fundraiser called “Chalk the Walk” was held in mid-April and was described as a major success. The inaugural event ran from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and allowed local artists — young amateurs and budding professionals — the opportunity to design their own creations on a 5-foot by 5-foot section of the Greenway for a $10 entry fee. Judges selected winners in several categories.
“Chalk the Walk” was held on a concrete portion of the Greenway between the People for Caring and Learning playground and Raider Drive. This put the fundraiser in the same proximity as the Greenway’s first public art exhibit. The conversational and user-friendly impact of the “Sitting Tall” piece near Raider Drive has shown the value in bringing art to the Greenway.
“The piece has already become a landmark and is the first of several to come as funds allow,” Fisher said. “GPAC is also the group working on the new concept for the Greenway benches. They will be unveiled later this year.”
Recognizing that it’s an extensive shopping list, Fisher said the Greenway board’s vision for enhancements will come over a period of time and not overnight. Until then, he offered up a set of nine “opportunities” for community consideration in a recent “Keeping It Green” column that is published on the Editorial Page of the Cleveland Daily Banner every other Sunday.
In encapsulated form, as described in Fisher’s column, here’s the list:
1. Message Boards: “Greenways bring people together and it makes sense to have a place where they can get information about community events. All-weather message boards are commonplace at public parks and greenways.”
2. Dog Parks: “This is a real need among dog owners. It is a fenced area along the Greenway where pets can be let off their leashes to run free for a few minutes before finishing their walks with their owners.”
3. Public Art: “There is going to be a need for funding at least three other pieces at the mile markers. Where the public art program goes from here will depend largely on the generosity of future donors.”
4. Outdoor Gyms: “This relatively new concept places fitness equipment outdoors for free public use. More than jungle gyms and swing sets, outdoor gyms mimic traditional indoor fitness equipment, but is manufactured to withstand the elements. The pieces can be individually placed, or as a grouping, and offers more options for those who want to be fit, but may not be able to afford a gym membership.”
5. Distance Markers: “The debate about style, frequency and starting point(s) has been ongoing since the Greenway’s inception. When the final decision is made, funding distance markers will be a feather in the cap of some organization or individual.”
6. Picnic Tables: “These would be placed in several already designated areas. Or, if several are donated, a new area could be established.”
7. Event Stage: “A couple of places along the Greenway have been identified as areas where a stage could be erected. The space would be slated for impromptu concerts, reserved for family gatherings or perhaps a staging area for events that take place on the Greenway such as 5K races or the Mix 104.1 Duck Race.”
8. Restrooms: “There is a need for at least one more restroom facility along the Greenway’s four-mile stretch. Currently, there are two. They are located at the Harris Circle trailhead and the Tinsley Park playground.”
9. Picnic Shelters: “Picnic shelters similar to what exists at Tinsley Park are needed at strategic points along the Greenway.”
Fisher pointed out these are just a few ideas. Greenway users might have others. Suggestions, questions or donor offers may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or they can be given to him personally, in conversation anywhere in the community or to any Greenway board member.