Plans for the Red Line Greenway
(RLG), a three-mile elevated linear park spanning Cleveland’s west side and downtown, originated as a pie-in-the-sky dream more than 40 years ago by Rotary Club of Cleveland
member Stan Adams and two other founders. Adams pursed the vision until his 92nd
birthday in 2012.
Now thanks to the tireless efforts of a hard-working team led by Lennie Stover, founder and project coordinator of the Red Line Greenway project and Rotary member, the project is gaining momentum and is shaping up to rival, or better, the likes of New York City’s High Line
, Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail
and other regional rail-trail projects.
"Nationwide, we’re in middle of a trail building boom and we're behind most major U.S. cities in trail development,” says Stover, “but we’re quickly gaining."
When the project takes off in earnest in 2019, the Red Line Greenway will be a multi-purpose path along the RTA red line, stretching from Zone Recreation Center at W. 55rd
Street and Lorain Avenue, across the Cuyahoga River Viaduct in the Flats into downtown at the Carl B. Stokes U.S. Courthouse at Superior Avenue and Huron Road.
"I feel like I have a masters’ degree in trails," says Stover. "Trails are now seen as the arts and cultural architectural infrastructure for getting places.”
The trail covers 60 acres and 95 feet of the Cuyahoga River while connecting eight Cleveland neighborhoods to within two blocks of Public Square.
“Trails don’t discriminate, they don’t care if you wear shoes or not,” says Stover, pointing out that the RLG will serve some 57,000 locals, 20,000 of whom are under age 19. “People think trails and they think walking, running and biking, but there’s also meandering, wandering and just seeing who’s out.”
With the July 26 announcement of the Cleveland Metroparks
’ $7.95 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER
) grant for creating and improving bike and pedestrian trails along Cleveland’s waterfront, the Metroparks has committed $4 million to the RLG and the project took a few more steps toward its $6.1 million goal.
Other collaborative partners in the project include RTA
, LAND studio
, Western Reserve Land Conservancy
, the Cleveland Leadership Center
, the city of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and countless volunteers.
It’s a good problem to have – too many volunteers,” quips Stover. “We had 500 volunteers last year, 400 were first-time visitors. This year we’ve have 700, with 500 being first-timers.”
The RLG has hosted more than a dozen corporate and community groups, and volunteers over the past year for Beautification Days.
Those volunteers have cleaned up trash and debris along the property, including 100 tons of steel – collected mostly by hand, Stover says – that netted the group $55,000 in scrap sales.
Those volunteers have ensured the RLG’s progress. “What we have right now is very close to a world-class trail, but we have higher expectations,” says Stover. “We’re on the cutting edge.”
Other organizations have helped out with goods and services. Petitti Garden Center
donated 1,100 hydrangeas that were planted along the RLG. Forest City Tree Protection
has consistently provided pruning and tree protection services, while MTD Products
donated a riding mower.
But the RLG still needs more help. “I need [more] loyal people, marketing people, fundraising people,” says Stover, adding that finding people who know how to operate equipment is yet another challenge.
Nonetheless, the team never stops looking toward the future. Phases one and two should be done in a year to 18 months after construction starts, says Stover, while phase three will depend on an engineering study and additional funding.
In the meantime, the team has been busy building a new sandstone entrance to the RLG and clearing a view at the top of Franklin Avenue between Ohio City and Duck Island, where organizers plan to hold a fundraiser next May 20.
“We have a great location and we’re persistent as hell,” says Stover.