BROOKLYN — As an independent group moves forward trying to develop plans for a trail in the city, Mayor Ken Patton wants to assure residents that eminent domain will not be used to get privately owned land for the project.
"The city will not be using eminent domain to accomplish this," Patton said.
Right now, the group Friends of the Big Creek is working to establish a preliminary plan for a trail that would connect the existing greenways and public amenities, such as the Canalway Towpath Trail, to the 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.
They are zeroing in on the Cascade Crossing area in Brooklyn as a "vital" part of their plan, FBC Chair Bob Gardin said.
The group, who has an advisory committee that includes City Council members Kathleen Pucci and Thomas Coyne, recently met with Cascade's management board to discuss granting a land easement for the trail.
"We are open-minded to the idea," Jerry Johnson said.
Johnson is with the Forest City Land Group, the owners of Cascade Crossing.
Johnson said all the business owners in the Cascade area would have to agree to an easement before one would be granted if the group seeks land in one of the "common" areas of the development.
He said that is a likely scenario, and said they are in the process of contacting owners who are located out of state.
"We are sending letters to notify them," he said.
Once this is accomplished, he said they can gain a consensus on whether or not they want to grant an easement. He said the response may be negative, but added "it looks positive."
Gardin's group has to also first identify issues of potential ownership, security and maintenance issues before an agreement can be made with Cascade's Management Association.
Meanwhile, Patton wants to assure residents who live along Tiedeman Road that may be impacted by the proposal that the city will not be looking to take land from them for it.
He said currently the city has no plans to step into the process. Patton said once the group works out an agreement with private land owners council may give the group its "blessing" to go ahead with the project.
In the future, Patton said, the group may want to discuss connecting the trail on city property. He said at that time they would need to get involved in the process.
Gardin said the group is looking at running the trail along the Kingdom/Oxbow area, some of which is city-owned land. He said this aspect of the trail would run only along the edge of this property.
He said the group hopes to get a land easement from Cascade Crossing and use that as leverage to gain easements from land owners like Wal-Mart and the railroad company. He said they also hope to get the Metroparks on board with their plans.
He said the group will be meeting with representatives from Wal-mart next month.
Gardin said they are looking to get a grant for a trail alignment study. This would include examining potential stream restoration efforts, including the Kingdom/Oxbow wetland area.
"We have gained consensus within our group and the 12-member advisory committee on the general concept for the trail alignment and map," Gardin said in a e-mail.
Gardin said the easement/acquisitions for the trail from Brookside to the Memphis Reservation connections will be the "easiest" to get, but the more difficult and expensive to build. Contrasting this, he said while the Brookpark Road to Interstate 480 stretch may be easier to build, it may prove more difficult as far as land assembly.
Patton said the city has some concerns about running the trail under I-480 and near the railroad tracks.
Gardin said they are working on "both ends," and will also be exploring a trail alignment from Brookside Park along the northern edge of the the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to Pearl Road. He said this alignment would allow trail users to remain in the Big Creek valley en route to the Towpath Trail.
He said the group may release a map with exact trail alignment proposals after they have done more research this summer.
[Sections of*] The trail, if it goes as the group plans, would not be completed for a minimum of two or [to*] five years, Gardin said.
But the group hopes land owners will jump on board because the trail will help preserve green space and give businesses near it an economic boost, he said. Something Patton said he agrees is needed for the city.
"The natural areas should be preserved," Patton said.
He said Cuyahoga County was identified as the first "built out" county in the state.
Patton said the group offers a good guideline as to how to save some of the greenspace in the city, but said that they want to see what kind of commitment, both financially and otherwise, they are planning to make in order to build the trail.
* Ed. note: text added for clarification
The conceptual map for a proposed trail in Brooklyn shows how it would run along Tiedeman Road. The map has already been reviewed and refined by key players, including Cleveland City Planning and Cuyahoga County Planning Commission representatives.
© 2005 Sun Newspapers
Reprinted with permission.