Monday, August 17, 2015 – Today our staff took a tour of the proposed Red Line Greenway with Volunteer/Founder Lennie Stover. WOW! When this opens (see info on phases of opening) it will be one of the coolest bike/walk paths in all of the Midwest! The plan is to re-purpose 2.5 miles of unused right-of-way alongside the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s Red Line (the light rail train that takes passengers from Hopkins Airport into Downtown and then out to University Circle) for public enjoyment, recreation, and commuting. When complete, it will stretch from W. 65th Street, near Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District, to downtown (W. 9th & Superior). They recently received a $2 million gift as they work to fundraise to make this park a reality.
Other cities have made phenomenal parks out of former (or in use) rail road tracks, including New York City’s The High Line, and they are game changers for cities who want to appeal to millennials and those who would rather bike through a beautiful park then on busy noisy city streets to get from one urban neighborhood to another. When The High Line opened in Manhattan, they hoped for 30,000-40,000 visitors a year and are now seeing more than three million annually. Cleveland is working hard to create its own version of The High Line with a three mile park that will connect a half dozen near west city neighborhoods to downtown, including: Gordon Square Arts District, Stockyards, Clark/Fulton, Tremont, and Ohio City. The park will provide space for walkers, joggers, bikers, bench sitters, and, hopefully, live performances.
The force behind this effort is the Cleveland Rotary Club, and especially volunteer Lennie Stover, who is the one who decided to take a courageous step off the cliff when he left his day job in wealth management to work on this full time. According to Lenny, this project all started in 1977 when a Rotarian happened to ride the Rapid from the airport into downtown. He was saddened to see nothing but graffiti, tires, litter, and an overgrown and neglected landscape along this route – realizing that this was the first impression of Cleveland many visitors got when they arrived in our town. He turned that experience into a citywide effort called Rapid Recovery, which paired companies and volunteer groups with a 200′ stretch of land alongside the train tracks that they adopted and kept in shape. Almost 40 years later, the Rotary Club of Cleveland has taken over the primary maintenance of the two mile stretch that will ultimately become the public pathway.
Look at the views you have of our city skyline! And, as you head into the city from Tremont/Ohio City, the train tracks take up the majority of the bridge so they are working on a plan to cantilever the pathway out alongside the bridge. Views down below are cool. You can see Merwin’s Wharf and Crooked River Skatepark.
When done, the Red Line Greenway will be the highest elevated trail in the US along an active train line! To show us the entire length of the proposed trail, Lenny did a little off-roading with us in his pickup truck, and at one point, with 5 of us sitting on hay bales in the back of the truck, we got on I-90 and drove 60 mph which we are pretty sure was the most fun we’ve had at a staff meeting ever. And, we know that the drivers who went past our truck were thinking, “wow, the farmhands sure get nicely dressed for work these days.” The amount of work to still be done is crazy, but they have built up a volunteer database and regularly have teams of 15-25 people helping to throw tires into dumpsters, cutting grass, planting flowers, and hacking away at invasive overgrowth.
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