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New multipurpose trail to connect Cleveland's near East Side to lakefront, Downtown

An artist's rendering shows the design of the new trail.
Cleveland Metroparks
Cleveland Metroparks
The trail will expand access to the lakefront from East 9th Street in Downtown Cleveland to East 55th Street, before connecting to other trails and amenities along the city's shoreline. The project is in its final design phase and is seeking federal approval before awarding a contract for construction.

A new multi-use lakefront trail will soon allow walkers and bikers to easily get from Cleveland’s St. Clair Superior and Glenville neighborhoods on the East Side to Downtown.

The North Marginal trail will extend from East 9th Street to East 55th Street running adjacent to the Lake Erie shoreline along North Marginal Road, connecting features like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Gordon Park and the Harrison Dillard bikeway.

"If you look at the totality of the Cuyahoga Greenways Plan, which is an ambitious plan to connect assets [and], places of employment..., this connection from east to East 55th is critical," said Sean McDermott, Cleveland Metroparks' chief planning and design officer. "It is a critical gap in the network to serve Downtown. It's a critical gap in the network along our lakefront. So we see this as a major step forward."

The two-mile trail will improve access to the lakefront to neighborhoods that currently lack it, said Nichole English, planning and programming administrator for Cuyahoga County Public Works.

"We've heard there's kids who live less than a mile from the lake that have told us at public meetings that they've never touched or seen the lake in person," English said.

The trail will also be accessible for tourists, who have struggled to access the lake in the past, she said.

"We've heard it from the hotels that people constantly ask, 'Where can we run by the lake?'" she said. "They struggle to tell them where they can safely run near the lake, without going all the way out more by Whiskey Island or Edgewater, so this will be a nice feature for those people as well."

Currently, there is a strip of narrow concrete along the curb on North Marginal that forces many pedestrians trying to get east from Downtown to walk and bike in the road.

"But it is not a trail. It's not intended to be a sidewalk. It's just pavement that had been placed down," English said. "None of it is really meant for anybody to be riding or walking and certainly not ADA accessible for anyone in a wheelchair to pass through so that's really the missing link."

The North Marginal Trail is the first piece of a larger plan to increase access to the lakefront on the city's East Eide, McDermott said.

"Quite frankly, we know that we can do better on our lakefront," he said. "In working with partners on the CHEERS projects, so Cleveland Harbor Eastern and Embayment Resiliency Strategy, we, along with our partners at the Port, the city, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Black Environmental Leaders and ODOT, [are] all working together on this master plan that will be transformational for the East Side lakefront."

Rendering of the trail showing its path along North Marginal Road from East 9th Street to East 55th Street before connecting to an existing trail toward South Gordon Park.
Cleveland Metroparks
Cleveland Metroparks
The trail will expand access to the lakefront from East 9th Street in Downtown Cleveland to East 55th Street, before connecting to other trails and amenities along the city's shoreline.

The idea for the path came from former Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish's lakefront plan. That project was shelved due to a lack of funding at the time, English said.

"This was one of the one identified pieces that could be... an early win on connecting along the lakefront," she said. "The county picked it up at that point and started the design on it ... I'd say about three years ago, and then we worked with the Metroparks and NOACA in order to assemble the construction funding for it."

The project is expected to cost about $10.9 million, according to English. That price could change once the project goes out for bid and the selected contractor determines the cost of labor and materials.

The partnership secured more than $5.6 million in federal funding from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, plus an additional $5 million donation from the Mandel Foundation. Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland will split the remaining cost of about $120,000 each.

The partnership is still awaiting federal approval before it can go out for bid, English said. Construction is currently expected to begin in July.

Zaria Johnson is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media covering the environment.