When Rails-to-Trails Conservancy got involved in the development of the Morgana Run Trail in southeast Cleveland in 2008, we were still exploring the impacts and potential of rail-trail projects in urban areas and underserved neighborhoods. While we knew that improving access to stores, workplaces and transit, and providing safe and convenient pathways for recreation could do great things for residents and local businesses, we had only just scratched the surface on grasping the transformative impact of the humble trail.
So, 5 years later, it is amazing to hear how the people of Cleveland talk about the Morgana Run.
"Morgana Run was really the genesis for a lot of what has happened over the last couple of years in Cleveland," says Clevelander John Mitterholzer of the Gund Foundation. "It really has inspired people to look at other neighborhoods and create similar systems."
"We didn't expect when we began to work on the trail that it would be anything more than a nice little amenity," says Marie Kittredge of Slavic Village Development, the community development corporation that RTC partnered with on the Morgana Run. "We didn't realize that it would become the center of our rebranding and new neighborhood identity."
Earlier this year I returned to Cleveland with RTC's Manager of Communications, Jake Lynch, to talk to local business people, leaders, advocates and young entrepreneurs about exactly what trails like the Morgana Run and the resultant boom in biking and walking has meant for them and the city they love.
What we heard, and recorded in this short documentary video, was inspiring. As someone who personally puts so much time and energy into building trails and trying to improve access to active transportation for all Americans, seeing firsthand the fruits of this labor was incredibly satisfying. Not only that, it inspired to me to continue to help other cities reap the same benefits that Cleveland is now enjoying - where the downtown population is growing, new businesses are being born and thriving, and a whole new choir of biking and walking advocates is being created by the undeniable improvements they see in their city.
Way to go, Cleveland. The Rust Belt is bouncing back, big time.