Centennial Trail 5K showcases stunning downtown views

The Cleveland Foundation Centennial Lake Link Trail, which runs along 1.3 miles of abandoned railroad right of way in the Flats, offers a glimpse of the ever-changing landscape of Cleveland’s industrial waterfront, the downtown skyline, and the Cuyahoga River as it snakes through the heart of Cleveland.

Yet more needs to be done to raise awareness of the trail and promote engagement, say Cleveland Metroparks officials. That’s why they’ve organized the second annual Centennial Trail 5K, which will give walkers and runners the opportunity to see for themselves the increased bike-pedestrian connections that exist in and around downtown Cleveland.

In addition to being a fun event, 100% of the proceeds from the 5K walk/run go to benefit the Emerald Necklace Endowment Fund of the Cleveland Foundation, which helps the Metroparks with its preservation needs. You can register here.

The Cleveland Foundation Centennial Lake Link Trail provides great views of downtown.“This is a way of activating one of our newest trails connecting downtown and the neighborhoods,” says Jacqueline Gerling, the Metroparks’ Director of Communications. “Folks can enjoy sweeping views of the city and the river and get a firsthand look at the newest section of the Lake Link Trail.”

While the 5K helps fulfill the Metroparks’ mission of getting people out on the trails and enjoying nature, community and physical activity, it’s a fun, accessible event for young and old, Gerling says.

“You don’t have to be a world class athlete to participate,” she says with a laugh. “A lot of times we hear about these great trails, but we’re more comfortable exploring something new with others. The 5K walk/run gives people a chance to join in doing so with other Clevelanders.”

The newest section of the Lake Link Trail extends from Detroit Avenue to River Road on the Flats west bank. It connects from there to already-completed sections of the trail which will ultimately link to the Towpath Trail on the southern end and Whiskey Island on the northern end.

The Lake Link Trail was made possible five years ago in part by a $5 million grant from the Cleveland Foundation.They saw it as a way to commemorate the foundation’s 100-year anniversary and jumpstart a catalytic project in downtown Cleveland, says Michael Murphy, the foundation’s Chief Marketing Officer.

“The idea behind the grant was a lot of people don’t have immediate access to the lake, and this trail for many neighborhoods represents their first access,” he says.

Once the trail was built, foundation officials began looking for ways to promote it and increase engagement. “We approached the Metroparks last year and said, ‘What if we created an event to showcase the latest and greatest of the trail and also to raise money for the Emerald Necklace Fund?’”

The first 5K walk/run was a big success, with more than 500 people participating. “Our experience last year was that a significant majority of participants hadn’t yet been on the trail or been to Merwin’s Wharf,” says Murphy. This year’s event aims to build upon last year’s success. “We thought, how else can we continue to grow this experience?”

Centennial Trail 5K 2018 - photo Kyle Lanzer/Cleveland MetroparksOne of the strategies was to interface with Cleveland’s vibrant running community and get them involved in becoming ambassadors for the trail. So far, it’s worked. Gerling says registrations for the second annual event have so far outpaced the first one, and word of mouth is spreading.

For the Metroparks, this is more than just another event, but rather a chance to improve Cleveland’s neighborhoods through enhancing connections to green space. “We’ve done an economic impact study, and parks and trails raise the value of nearby homes by $155 million,” she says. “This trail contributes to a multimodal transportation network and is a chance for up-and-coming neighborhoods to connect.”

“One of our goals is to make sure that everyone in the Cleveland Metroparks area has access to a trail within a 10-minute drive,” she says.

With the streets closed off, the Centennial Trail 5K offers an unprecedented way to get some exercise and fresh air while seeing the city, Murphy says. “This is an incredible asset people aren’t aware of, but we hope it will become one of the calling cards of Cleveland,” he says.

Registration is still open for the Cleveland Metroparks and Cleveland Foundation Centennial Trail 5K, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 14, at Merwin’s Wharf in the Flats. Check-in begins at 7 a.m., and the run/walk starts at 8:30 am. Dogs are welcome, and kids two and under are free. Registration is $25 for adults, and $15 for youth 11 and under. Participants receive a complimentary T-shirt, medal and invitation to the afterparty at Merwin’s Wharf featuring snacks, refreshments, and a performance by Billy Morris and the Sunset Strip.

Read more articles by Lee Chilcote.

Lee Chilcote is the author of the poetry chapbooks The Shape of Home and How to Live in Ruins. His writing has been published by Vanity Fair, Next City, Belt and many literary journals as well as in The Cleveland Neighborhood Guidebook, The Cleveland Anthology and A Race Anthology: Dispatches and Artifacts from a Segregated City. He is a founder and former executive director of Literary Cleveland. He lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood of Cleveland with his family.
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