Cuyahoga County Greenspace Plan
Countywide Trail System
There are currently an estimated 115 miles of trails within Cuyahoga County. The construction and extension of the Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley, the existence of and plans for all-purpose trails in the Metroparks, and the construction of a trail along parts of the Lakefront begin to lay the foundation for a system of trails which would provide access, connections and recreational opportunities for all parts of the County. These trails would provide access to natural corridors, connections for discovering other neighborhoods and could also provide alternative transportation choices for commuters or college students.
The construction of the Towpath Trail within the Cuyahoga Valley has generated an excitement and interest in creating connections to it from surrounding neighborhoods. Groups in the West Creek, Mill Creek and Big Creek Valleys have put forth the idea of connecting to this central spine with trails which would provide the public with access to such locations as the Metroparks Zoo or the Mill Creek waterfall. All purpose trails within the Metroparks come close to creating a loop around the perimeter of Cuyahoga County and connecting the major valleys of the Rocky, the Cuyahoga, and the Chagrin Rivers. Plans for the Metroparks show some of the gaps in the loop, such as along Valley Parkway, to be completed. For the most part, the Lakefront bike loop takes the form of a designation on existing roadways but the recent creation of a trail
Construction of the Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley has generated an interest in creating connections to it from surrounding neighborhoods.
The interest in such projects will continue to grow and while there has been discussions on how specific projects could fit together, there has been no overall plan developed which identifies the goals or comprehensively guides efforts for the development for trails in the future. The attached map presents a concept for the development of a trail system for Cuyahoga County. As with the greenspace corridor concept, the concept for the trails builds off planning and work that has already been done and looks to the opportunities presented by the natural and man-made environment to expand the system to all areas of Cuyahoga County. The concept is essentially an organizing element for a system of spines and loops which provides the framework for more localized systems of trails and bike lanes. It proposes opening up the unique natural areas within the more urbanized parts of the County by bringing trails to where the people live instead of requiring residents to drive out to nature.
Elements of the plan include finishing the Towpath Trail and connecting it to Downtown and finishing the exterior loop around the perimeter of the County (Emerald Necklace Loop) by providing a safer and more formal connection along the Chagrin River Valley and a connection back up to the Lakeshore. In addition, two other trail loops in more developed parts of the County are proposed.
The natural northern terminus for the Towpath Trail is Lake Erie. The vacant Coast Guard Station at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River could be turned into a trailhead facility.
The City Loop would connect the system of parks first established by the City's park board back in the 1890's. In that decade the first general plan for park development in Cleveland was established. The plan envisioned a series of large parks at the periphery of the City linked together by boulevards. During that decade Gordon Park, Rockefeller Park, Wade Park, Shaker Lakes, Woodland Hills (Luke Easter Park), Garfield Park, Washington Park, Brookside Park and Edgewater Park were acquired. West Boulevard and East Boulevard (MLK Boulevard) were designed as parkway connections. The City Loop's goal would be to provide a connection between this first series of large parks.
The Inner Ring Loop would connect a number of watersheds located through some the City's older suburbs and provides an opportunity to create an amenity which provides a fresh orientation for those communities. Large stretches of such a loop could be located within the valleys of tributaries which have been neglected in the past. Opportunities exist to create connections between the Euclid Creek, Mill Creek, West Creek, Baldwin and Abrams Creek valleys. Critical connections between these natural areas would involve combinations of roadway improvements, and easements along utility and institutional lands.
In general these loops would be spaced approximately five miles apart across the County. More localized loops, or spurs to activity centers, would be developed off them. These loops would also be intersected and connected by spine trails which would provide more direct connections
Where feasible, trails should be incorporated into roadway improvements such as in this example along Forbes Road in Oakwood.
Another important connection should be made to connect the east side with Downtown. Many attendees of the community meetings which were held as part of the Greenspace planning process indicated a desire to create a connection between the Heights area and Downtown. Such a connection would serve commuters, connect to the many cultural institutions on the east side and would also provide access between the college campuses located on the east side.
A spine which connects to the southwest may also be possible by extending the existing all-purpose trail in the Big Creek Reservation to the north. In the Metroparks 2000 Plan, the concept of extending the trail northward to connect to other parts of the Big Creek Valley, including the Zoo, has been included. Such a trail could also branch-off to the northeast and connect through the City's Stockyards neighborhood to Train Avenue in the Walworth Run Valley. Walworth Run has been culverted under Train Avenue, but the valley it created still exists as an area apart from the densely developed urban neighborhoods around it. Such a link would provide a direct connection from the southwest to Downtown, highlight and upgrade a forgotten natural feature on the City's near west side, and provide an amenity for the adjacent inner-city neighborhoods.
Improved access to, and along, Lake Erie is needed if the public is to be able to access the area's most unique natural feature. A spine has begun to form parallel to the shoreline. A number of roadways have been designated as bike routes and new trails have been constructed recently along parts of the lakefront in the City of Cleveland. No provisions for a separate lane for bikes have been included on these routes and a large part of the public does not feel safe sharing streets with vehicles. Ideally a lakeshore trail would be involve a designated area separate from vehicle traffic. Because of past development patterns much of the shoreline is in the possession of private property owners and public property is located in scattered sites along the lake. In order to create a route which is truly attractive and usable for most of the public, a commitment to upgrading public right-of-ways which serve as connections between the various public properties along the lake must be made.
In addition, wherever public institutions own property along Lake Erie, not just in parks, accommodations for lakefront access should be pursued. Finally, where separate trails are developed on public and institutional property, amenities which enhance the public's experience are needed. Large sections of the new lakefront trails lack the aesthetics, such as tree cover, which would attract users.
Utility and abandoned rail corridors provide opportunities for the development of trails as in this example along the border of Valley View and Garfield Heights.
Connection to Activity Areas
Another way in which the Greenprint can serve as an organizing element for revitalization and development in the County is by creating attractive, safe and user-friendly routes which link the system of green corridors to other activity centers within the County. Most communities have civic complexes, recreation centers, historic downtowns or other cultural or educational institutions which are central to community life and important to forming the area's image. These greened routes would serve as linkages to these important centers. In addition to enjoying the natural areas of the County, greenspace users could augment those experiences by also being encouraged to discover the many cultural and historical sites and districts around us. Such connections should be geared towards trail users, motorists, local residents and out-of-towners alike. The designation of the Scenic Byway route along the Cuyahoga River is an example of a first step to develop one such route.
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