BROOKLYN — Efforts are under way to open major streets in the city to Cleveland Metroparks access. The issue was scheduled to be discussed Wednesday at a meeting conducted by Friends of Big Creek, a volunteer group.
The organization wants to connect the Canalway Towpath Trail with a trail alignment along Big Creek from Brookpark Road, connecting to the Metroparks. The trail would link the existing greenways and public amenities from the Harvard Road Trailhead to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo/Brookside Park, to the Big Creek Reservation at Memphis Avenue, along the Tiedeman Road area, on to the Big Creek Reservation at Brookpark Road.
The proposal, Chair Bob Gardin said, would connect a trail from Brookpark Road north under I-480 to Tiedeman, and from Brookside Park west to Memphis Avenue and Tiedeman Road in Brooklyn, with the purpose to enhance what is known as the "Kingdom/Oxbow" area.
The trails would run behind the Cascade Crossing area and Wal-Mart on Brookpark.
After Wednesday's meeting, members of the group said they plan to come to a consensus on what they would like to see in the area, as well as outline their objectives.
Gardin said the group wants to help preserve some of the green space they fear will be gobbled up as more businesses and development occurs in the city, as well open up the Metroparks to those who live and work in Brooklyn.
But the plans are complicated and mix in the legalities of private, city and state property, as well as zoning and environmental concerns.
The Cascade Crossing spot, owned by Forest City Inc., is being planned for parking when offices eventually are built. Gardin said he has spoken with representatives from Forest City and they seem receptive to the idea of cutting back on parking in order to build a trail.
He said the group is hoping Forest City will donate a land easement for the trail. So far, nothing has been offered.
Gardin called the land at Cascade Crossing the most crucial part of the plans. If no easement is donated, he said the group would be willing to purchase land if Forest City is willing to sell.
A representative from Forest City could not be reached by press time.
Gardin said in talks with both Mayor Kenneth Patton and a Forest City representative he has gotten a positive response to the plans.
He said, though Forest City would lose parking space, they would gain greenery.
"It enhances the whole area," Gardin said.
Patton plans to wait until proposals from the group are brought to him before he will comment on any of the plans, according to his assistant.
Final proposals and a master [conceptual] plan for the trail will not be released until Dec. 14 or 15, after the group meets with businesses and community leaders who are a part of the seven Watershed Communities. That group includes Brooklyn, Cleveland, Parma, Parma Heights, Brook Park, Linndale and North Royalton, as well as Forest City's Cascade Crossing board.
Other private property owners, including residents, also factor into any future development of trails in the city.
Gardin said the group, which is in the process of seeking non-profit status and is using the Cuyahoga River Remedial Action Plan as its fiscal agent, is looking at whether any other private property owners want to donate an easement on some of their land for the trail. Residents who live along places like Memphis [Tiedeman*] that might be affected by the group's plans and might be asked if they want to donate some of their land. It is a sensitive issue for the group, and the reason, Gardin said, that conceptual plans have not yet been released.
He said in the future, there could be opportunities for commercial buyouts in some of the area being eyed for trail space. Gardin said the group hopes some residents might want to sell or donate an easement on some of their land to preserve greenspace as more development occurs.
But everything is in the beginning stages. Gardin said the group is still determining who owns some of the land.
He said they are talking with different county agencies, as well as Ohio Department of Transportation, about weaving the trail under I-480 and about different issues that relate to the land.
Gardin said the county, under the County Planning Commission, supports the groups efforts. Now it is a matter of getting local communities on board.
The group is hoping that area cities, unlike in the past, will work together to save green space.
Gardin said William Stinchcomb, founder of the Metroparks, in 1919 envisioned a trail similar to the one the group is proposing. Even 100 years before that [now*], local leaders made similar proposals.
But territorial concerns among different cities stopped the trails from ever becoming a reality.
Gardin said the group has high hopes that cooperation on a local and state level will help them realize their vision this time.
If the trail plans are successful, Gardin said it will bring more than just nature to the area.
With increased access to the Metroparks, future development can be planned and encouraged in the area using the new trails as selling points.
Also, with a new trail Gardin said both residents and future office workers will be able to access the natural surroundings of the Metroparks, as well as the restaurants and stores that either are in, or will be in, places like Cascade Crossing.
"Our goal is to make a complete corridor from Big Creek at Brookpark Road, north and east, and beyond, to Towpath Trail, and to raise awareness of the environmental issues of Big Creek," Gardin said. "This is about ownership of communities to make their cities more attractive."
For more information about the group and trail plans for the area, visit www.friendsofbigcreek.org.
* Ed. note: text added for clarification
"...residents who might be affected by the project...live along Tiedeman Road."
"Also, the first proposals for the trail were made by city leaders in 1919."
© 2005 Sun Newspapers
Reprinted with permission.