metroparks to present emerald necklace centennial plan at public meetings

Do you want to see more mountain bike trails in the Metroparks? Or spur trails that lead visitors through secluded, natural landscapes? Could the Metroparks take over the city's ailing, neglected lakefront park system, which suffers from millions in deferred maintenance from the cash-strapped State of Ohio?

These issues and many others will be the focus of public meetings scheduled in April and May by the Cleveland Metroparks. The Metroparks is seeking to present and gather feedback on its Emerald Necklace Centennial Plan, a document that has been in the works for more than two years and will guide the park system for the next decade.

The focus of the Metroparks over the past 10 years has been on preserving a well-maintained park system while also completing a loop trail through the Emerald Necklace. The new Master Plan will address basic maintenance needs like roads and bridges, while also planning for new projects, such as completing more spur trails. The plan comes at a crucial time, as the park system is dealing with a decline in state funding and the need to pass a new operating levy in 2013.

There has also been discussion about the Metroparks taking over lakefront parks in Cleveland, as well as Wendy Park at Whisky Island and, ultimately, the newly-created Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve. According to Jim Kastelic, Senior Park Planner at the Metroparks, the Master Plan directly addresses these opportunities.

"When we surveyed Northeast Ohioans about whether Cleveland's lakefront parks should be operated by the same organization, 47 percent said  yes and 37 percent said they weren't sure," says Kastelic, who cites the Metroparks' recent acquisition of two acres at Rivergate Park in the Flats and its agreement to manage the Towpath Trail in Cleveland as evidence of its commitment to urban parks and recreation. "That tells us that it's something that we need to look at."

Kastelic says the Centennial Plan will also focus on such key areas as green infrastructure, health of surrounding watersheds, strengthening the Metroparks' role in urban areas and creating a regional greenway system.

Additional meetings slated for April and May will largely focus on plans for individual Metroparks. Once the plan is finalized, the Metroparks will develop a list of strategic priorities and seek a levy in November of 2013.

Source: Cleveland Metroparks
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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