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Cleveland and surrounding Cuyahoga County is undergoing a gradual transformation. A highly urbanized region in America’s rust belt, it has experienced decades of declining population and sprawling development. Presently however, the region has shown signs of economic and social improvement as it recovers from years of stagnation and disinvestment. Accompanying this rebound is an increased awareness to the region’s fluctuating socioeconomic conditions and residual challenges to improving mobility. Moreover, there is a desire to ensure that change is sustainable and leads to equitable outcomes for all segments of the community.

Greenways, most notably the county-wide Emerald Necklace, have long been a staple and signature asset of Cuyahoga County. However, the needs of the population are diversifying, particularly regarding mobility and how people access jobs, parks, cultural resources, public services, and commercial centers. Being such, non-motorized travel -- a rising trend for a broad spectrum of the populace -- has become a key component in the region’s renewal as it grapples with constricted transit, geographic inequality, and an existing Greenway network whose benefits do not fully reach all sectors of the population.

Cuyahoga Greenways is a county-wide initiative to envision, plan, and implement over 800-miles of greenways and urban trails throughout the region. Unlike conventional approaches to building nonmotorized facilities, like bike lanes, that may only serve a segment of the population, Cuyahoga Greenways seeks to build an interconnected, non-motorized transportation network that is safe and welcoming for people of all ages and all abilities. This initiative, which featured input from 29 regional agencies and 43 participating communities, developed a vision, framework plan, and implementation tools for making the new greenway framework a reality.

The planning process was community-driven and data-enriched, empowering local leaders and stakeholders with the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions and craft a plan that benefits the community both economically and socially. A cornerstone of the process was a robust public engagement program with over 20 community-wide events. Leveraging both traditional and digital tools, a rigorous spatial analysis of over 300 corridor opportunities was completed. The resulting analysis, coupled with the community’s involvement, allowed stakeholders to identify and prioritize actionable greenway proposals that provide the biggest return to the community while dispensing more equitable outcomes.

With the greenway framework plan in place, community leadership has shown a willingness to more effectively collaborate across jurisdictions, leveraging resources to implement projects. The Cuyahoga Greenways initiative exemplifies a regionally coordinated and evidence-based process to improve equity, mobility, and expand the benefits of greenways to all neighborhoods in Northeast Ohio.



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