CAMBA believes we have the potential to create a world-class trail network in Northeast Ohio of at least 100 miles in length that is interconnected by the towpath trail. The many economic benefits, low cost, and feasibility of this trail network should make this project a high priority for our area park systems and our region.
CAMBA believes our park systems should work together to construct a network of world-class, single-track trails for hiking, walking, trail running, skiing, and mountain biking. We believe this regional trail network should be at least one hundred miles in length and should be interconnected using the towpath trail.
Our proposed trail network is different than the existing towpath trail and paved all-purpose trails that can be found in most of the area parks. Single-track trails are narrow with an unpaved, natural surface. These trails can be found throughout our area parks, but very few are world-class. World-class single-track flows through a forest or meadow, takes advantage of scenery, is sustainable, withstands typical area weather, and is appropriate for multiple user groups of all ability levels.
This project is feasible and can be completed in less than three years. The cost of building a 100 mile network of world-class trails is less than $5 million and requires no land to be acquired or facilities to be built. There are even some trails already in existence, but they will need attention to become world-class trails.
This project will benefit our region economically by retaining residents of a key demographic, attracting new residents, and attracting visitors to the region. The project will help the quality of life in area by promoting healthy lifestyles and it will improve our image by demonstrating that Northeast Ohio is an exciting, progressive place to live. Also, this project demonstrates that we are serious about creating and supporting the recreational opportunities that young, talented, and educated professionals desire.
CAMBA believes we are in a unique position to create a world-class trail network in Northeast Ohio. We believe our park systems should work together to construct a network of world-class single-track trails for hiking, walking, trail running, skiing, and mountain biking. We believe this regional trail network should be at least one hundred miles in length and should be interconnected using the towpath trail.
One hundred years ago, the leaders of this area saw the need and value of outdoor spaces for recreational purposes. As the area grew, they had the foresight to set aside a massive, interconnected green space at this region’s heart. Like our lakefront, this asset is unique and represents a competitive advantage for our region. Our proposal for a world-class trail simply builds on that earlier vision by allowing our region to leverage this competitive advantage and benefit our economy. The land is already there, the park systems are established, and the trailhead facilities (e.g., parking lots and restrooms) already exist. There are even some trails already in existence, but they will need attention to become world-class trails.
We believe this unique project would make bold statement about our region. Developing a 100 mile network of world-class trails in an urban area such as Northeast Ohio would send a message to residents, potential residents, and visitors that we are serious about creating and supporting the recreational opportunities that young, talented, and educated professionals desire. We believe a world-class, multi-purpose trail would attract this younger demographic to our area as well as keep those who are already here. And it would do so at a minimal cost.
According to a recent report by the Brookings Institution, Chattanooga was the nation’s most polluted city in 1969 and one of only 18 U.S. cities with a population of more than 100,000 to lose more than 10 percent of its residents during the 1980′s. Today, Chattanooga is often referred to as the â€œBoulder, Colorado of the Eastâ€ and the city is growing at a healthy pace. The report cites â€œfocusing on assetsâ€ (such as Chattanooga’s waterfront) as a key factor in the city’s turnaround. one of Northeast Ohio’s assets is our extensive green space between Akron and Cleveland. A way to focus on this asset is to develop a world-class trail within this green space.
What makes a world-class trail?
Cross-country, single-track trails are narrow, unpaved, natural-surface trails through forests and meadows. While there are already hundreds of miles of such trails throughout many of our area parks, almost none of them are world-class. This is not a fault of our region; it is typical of the vast majority of trails throughout the country. Most trails develop socially with little planning or thought to trail quality. Over time, they are adopted by a park system and become a formal trail.
Most people know what a trail is, but few have seen or experienced a world-class trail. World-class trails share a number of important characteristics:
Flow. A trail that flows is a trail that follows the contours of the land without abrupt turns and overly steep climbs/descents. They allow a hiker, a trail runner, or a mountain biker to maintain a rhythm over a distance without making dramatic changes in speed or direction.
Scenery. Our area park systems are blessed with many rich vistas, flowing streams, and open meadows. A world-class trail enhances these natural assets by allowing users to appreciate them while at the same time maintaining controlled access around sensitive habitats.
Sustainable. Trail design is the key factor to sustainability and the techniques for sustainable trail design are widely known in the parks and recreation field. Additionally, these trails are narrow and utilize a natural trail surface, so their impact on the land is minimal.
All-weather. Our weather in Northeast Ohio can be unpredictable, but that does not mean that our world-class trail needs to be at the mercy of this weather. Using good trail design and construction techniques, we can make our world-class trail withstand most weather. In the United Kingdom, the â€œCoed y Breninâ€ mountain bike trails are built in an area with an average rainfall of over 100 inches. They never close because they are designed and built with the area’s weather in mind.
Multiple-use. A world-class trail network provides opportunities for hiking, walking, trail running, cross-country skiing and mountain biking. Equestrian use can also be incorporated, but this would require more robust construction in many areas and would likely increase the cost. All of these user groups co-exist happily in other parks across the nation and there is no reason they can’t co-exist in Northeast Ohio.
Suitable for all ability levels. World-class trail networks are designed to be utilized by everyone from families with children up to the most advanced hikers and mountain bikers.
Draw visitors and keep local dollars local
There is no doubt that a 100 mile network of world-class trails will draw visitors to our area. They may not substitute their trip to Moab, Utah with a trip to Cleveland, but it will certainly attract visitors from places like Columbus, Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Indianapolis. A 100 mile network of trails will give
visitors more than enough trails for a weekend getaway which will include a stay at a local hotel, meals at local restaurants, and other dollars spent at local businesses. In addition, those that would typically leave the area on a weekend in search of world-class trails will now be able to stay local and spend their dollars here. The economic benefit will be real and it will be significant.
For example, in just six months, Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park (located on Cleveland’s west side) contributed to 500 hotel nights at a single area hotel. This significant economic impact exists, even though Ray’s appeals to one small niche within the off-road cycling community. In comparison, the appeal of a 100 mile world-class trail is much wider and the economic benefit is potentially much greater.
Promoting healthy lifestyles
In addition to the many economic benefits the trail would provide, it would also promote healthy lifestyles among area residents. There is no question we have a serious obesity problem in our society today. There is also no question that hiking, running, and cycling have significant health benefits. Creating a world-class trail that appeals to large numbers of people will help promote healthy lifestyles in our region.
Include Boston Mills/Brandywine
Ski resorts such as Whistler in British Columbia are having tremendous success with downhill and freeride mountain biking in the summer, allowing them to operate year round. We already have Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park (the only indoor mountain bike park in the world) right here in Cleveland. Why not work with Boston Mills/Brandywine and incorporate downhill and freeride mountain biking into the vision? This would directly benefit our regional economy. Imagine if our local ski resorts could reap peek season profits all year round!
Intangible benefits for our area
Once our world-class trail network is built, we will need to tell people about it by marketing it to area residents, potential residents, and visitors. Imagine if we were on the cover of Outside magazine as one of this country’s great places to live? What if visitors walked into the Cleveland airport and saw a big banner with mountain bikers on our world-class trails? Imagine the positive impact this would have on Cleveland’s image. The intangible benefits produced by this marketing effort would be significant.
A world-class trail network of 100 miles could be constructed for less than $5 million and be completed in less than 3 years. No land needs to be acquired and no additional facilities need to be built. A single-track trail typically costs $15,000 per mile to build. Using those figures, 100 miles of trail would cost about $1.5 million for construction. Estimated costs for planning and design fees, signage, and miscellaneous expenses would be another $1.5 million. Add 50% to the total (just to be safe) and the total cost of 100 miles of world-class trail is less than $5 million. A veritable bargain when compared to many other projects undertaken by our area park systems. When you consider the economic benefit to our area as well as the intangible benefits, this $5 million represents a fantastic value.
Our region is in a unique position to develop a world-class trail system of 100 miles or more that is easily accessible to millions of area residents. This world-class trail network will help retain existing residents, attract new residents, draw visitors, and benefit our regional economy. The cost is minimal and the land and supporting facilities already exist. With a coordinated effort by our area park systems, a world-class trail network can be built in a short period of time with an immediate benefit to our area economy. Compared with other efforts in the region, this project represents a â€œquick-hitâ€. While this trail is not a panacea for all the issues our region faces, it does represent a quality of life improvement that we urgently need and that is well within our reach.