Fourteen communities on Cleveland’s east side share a boundary and the distinction of being in the Eastside Greenway, a proposed network of parks and districts linked by greenspace and bike infrastructure.
But to the cyclist cruising from Glenville to North Chagrin Reservation or the suburban runner training for a marathon, the communities may as well be one. Great greenway networks know no borders—they weave through and unite.
The Eastside Greenway is based on an idea that connecting parks and town centers strengthens the parts as a whole. It enables the estimated 30,000 kids and the recreational and transportation cyclists from the 106,000 households in the area to do what they’re going to do—only better.
The study inventoried city plans and existing linear greenspace—such as medians on Shaker Boulevard, Belvoir Road, Washington Boulevard, the Euclid Creek Reservation or old rail lines—and poses improvements such as a tree and native plant program and a bikeway system of off-road trails, bike lanes, and routes marked by sharrows.
But the cities will have to collaborate if they hope to find the resources and the will to do this, says Kirby Date, Coordinator of the Community Planning Program at Cleveland State University.
The initial cost to built a complete system may reach a couple hundred million dollars, adds Patty Stevens, Cleveland Metroparks’ Chief of Park Planning, who bases her estimate on the $100 million completion of the Towpath Trail to the lakefront.
While that’s a big sum, Stevens and Date and a consortium of groups including CSU, the Metroparks and Land Studio hopes to build the case that the Eastside Greenway will come with immediate benefits.
Building off studies that have shown a 15% increase in property value for being near parks, Land Studio projects an increase in property values totaling $110 million from the Eastside Greenway.
In addition, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) plans to launch a Health Impact Analysis, a $100,000 study looking at the direct health benefits of the Eastside Greenway.
The study will look at the barriers to healthful living in the built environment, says CCBH’s Martha Halko.
The current picture is not good for Cuyahoga. Citing a University of Wisconsin study that ranks every county in the state on a number of health factors, Cuyahoga ranks 82 out of 88 counties in Ohio in the Physical Environment category. Halko cites disparities in life expectancy between city and suburban residents (Hough residents are expected to live to 64 years while Lyndhurst residents have a life expectancy of 89 years. The study removed factors such as crime and drug use.)
“It’s chronic disease where we live that makes a big difference,” she said.
Land use decisions and highway building had “unintended consequences” including increases in driving, lack of physical activity, air pollution and traffic injuries, she adds. The study will quantify just how much damage was done by previous land-use decisions, and how much can be undone focusing on strategies such as brownfield remediation.
The groups have met with cities to inventory existing greenway plans and “get a temperature” of their willingness to build bike-enable parkways, says Land Studio Managing Director, Greg Peckham.
This is an idea that has come to fruition, says Date, after a decade of discussion.
“The difference now, and the way we’ll ensure this really happens, is to see how much it offsets costs,” Stevens concludes.
Their next step is to apply to NOACA for a Transportation for Livable Communities Grant to study specific projects. The County Board of Health plans community outreach, including a survey, to help set priorities for its impact study.