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How to move a ReImagine vacant land use plan to action

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/08/11 @ 10:00am  |  Posted in Transform

Crain's Cleveland Business reports that Gov. Kasich may let the popular and effective brownfields grants-the Clean Ohio Fund and the Job Ready Sites program-which have strong support statewide, particularly in urban areas that have little or no undeveloped land – lapse. These grants have been used to purchase land for the Towpath Trail extension, for cleaning up large brownfield sites in Midtown Cleveland for building new or renovating spaces for biotech incubators, for preserving the West Creek in Parma and for cleaning former industrial sites along river corridors in Eastlake, to name a few.

Clean Ohio is the go-to source for converting chronically challenged land in urban areas into parks, such as Canal Basin Park, Rivergate Park and the conversion of Irishtown Bend into a recreation corridor in the Flats, and for repurposing open space in the suburbs as parks.

A whole vision for a recreation network in the Cleveland Flats is taking shape: With big players like the Cleveland Metroparks, Parkworks, Cuyahoga County Planning and Trust for Public Land starting to engage in building this network of trails and green spaces, their ability to leverage their limited funds with brownfield grants from the state are essential for more parks and trails.

· For more visionary planning around reusing vacant land, such as old rail and canal corridors for recreation, this Chicago Tribune article details some creative reuse projects. They are small scale, but transformational, right sized if Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are to make their ReImagine a More Sustainable Cleveland initiative and the Cuyahoga County Health Department, which recently submitted a multi-million dollar "Transformation" grant to the CDC which can be used to address obesity through the built environment, into an action-oriented plan.

Chicago's Health Department, with $800,000 in Centers for Disease Control funding, is tackling obesity through the built environment. They're doing walkability audits in 10 neighborhoods-looking at the routes to parks for biking and walking-and tying it to updates to the city bikeway plan. The article mentions San Fran's "living streets" program-which supports the city's Complete Streets policy with funding to do road diets. Chicago is even taking back the underused grassy medians on boulevards for running paths, and converting vacant property into imaginative playgrounds. Finally, in New York's South Bronx, 13 little used streets were closed to traffic, converted into temporary 'play streets' where kids rode scooters and got to shoot hoops. The ideas is, if kids prone to obesity aren't going to the playground, bring the playground to them. Most of the kids played for hours.

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