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eastside greenway aims to connect 19 cities with unified network of trails





Last week, two crowds of people interested in the expansion of greenspace, connectivity and alternative transportation converged on Happy Dog at Euclid Tavern and the Beachwood Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. They came to discuss and learn about preliminary plans for the proposed Cuyahoga County Eastside Greenway project. About 80 attended the first event and 40 went to the second.
 
"It was great turnout, considering the weather," says Anna Swanberg, project manager for Land Studio, which is spearheading the effort and will hold additional meetings tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. at Waterloo Brew, 15335 Waterloo Road and tomorrow from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the University Heights Public Library, 13866 Cedar Road. Interested parties unable to attend a meeting can view the entire presentation online and offer input via an online survey.
 
The presentation outlines an ambitious vision for a new greenspace network that will ideally sprawl over the east side of Cuyahoga County, covering a diverse range of 18 communities such as the cities of Euclid and Pepper Pike and neighborhoods from Hough to Coventry.
 
"We do have such a diverse range of neighborhoods and socioeconomic groups and racial groups," says Swanberg. "It's just across the board. The great thing about this (project) is it would be ensuring access for everybody."
 
Meeting attendees were curious about what an Eastside Greenway would look like in reality.
 
"The answer to that question," admits Swanberg, "we don't have quite yet."
 
That said, the online presentation offers an array of maps and bullet points that give shape to the proposal. The project will target main thoroughfares such as the Euclid, Belvoir, Shaker and Gates Mills/SOM Center corridors. The centerpieces of the Greenway's infrastructure will be dedicated off-road multipurpose trails, the construction of which presents an array of challenges such as right-of-way constraints and property acquisition easements.
 
"It's very difficult to get an off-road trail built in a densely populated area," says Swanberg, "but that is the goal for those segments." She calls the Eastside Greenway a "career project," that will unfold over 10, 15 or twenty years.
 
A secondary network of connectors will augment dedicated trails, most likely by way of on-street dedicated, buffered or protected bike lanes or sharrows, which are shared lanes, marked by a stencil of a bike and arrows that indicate bikes may use the full lane.
 
A $118,000 Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative Grant from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) is funding this initial planning phase of the project, along with $32,000 in matching funds raised by Land Studio and project partners.  
 
"We began with this last summer. Right now we're sort of at a midway point; our goal is to have a final report in July of this year," says Swanberg. "The great thing about a Livable Communities Grant is that it’s a federal grant. It's really designed to be the planning that sets you up to get federal implementation dollars down the road."
 
Intuitive goals of the Greenway include connecting pedestrians and bicyclists to employment and retail hubs, existing trails such as Morgana Run, the lakeshore and public services; but there is another lofty intent.
 
"We're looking at what this greenway means for health outcomes," adds Swanberg. "We're partnering with the county Board of Health on a health impact assessment, which is a relatively new planning tool that takes a research-based approach to looking at planning decisions."
 
The aim is to mitigate accidents, crime and fear of crime while promoting safety, physical activity and social cohesion between and within communities.
 
If you have a cohesive community in which people look out for one another, those areas tend to have less crime, says Swanberg, adding that one way to achieve cohesion is through equality.
 
But what does a greenway have to do with equality?
 
"The goal is to put everybody on the east side within a five or ten minute walk to one of these trails," says Swanberg, adding that the project enables transportation choices and access to amenities for everyone.
 
"Access is equality."

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit erinobrien.us for complete profile information.
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