The City of Solon was awarded a $500,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for a multipurpose trail linking the city to neighboring Bentleyville and Bainbridge Township.

Solon Mayor Edward H. Kraus calls the grant a “momentum builder.

“Now that we got the chunk of the funding, we can do the design,” Mayor Kraus said.

Discussions on the project began at Tuesday’s Safety and Public Properties committee meeting.

The committee approved proceeding with the preliminary design of the project for a cost not to exceed $37,000. City Council will consider the matter on Monday.

Voting in favor of the legislation was Councilmen William I. Russo and Jeremy T. Zelwin. Councilman Douglas A. Magill voted no.

“We haven’t agreed we are going ahead with the project,” Mr. Magill said. “To spend $37,000 without that agreement is premature and not in the best interest of the city.”

“We have to have the true cost (of the project),” Mayor Kraus said in justifying the expenditure for the design.

“We will be meeting with some of the committees now to get City Council involved as they will have to approve some of the issues and the design work,” the mayor said.

His job will be to meet with residents along the trail “to show them what the screening would look like and what I would be willing to do as part of the project,” he said. That may involve large trees or fencing, he added, but will leave it up to affected residents as to which they prefer.

Discussions of the proposed 2-mile trail drew support and objections from residents. The trail would convert an abandoned railroad track on city-owned land starting behind Carter Lumber and going east toward Bentleyville into a trail for walking and biking.

Those in favor cited increased opportunities for walkability throughout the community and those opposed raised issues regarding safety concerns and impact on property values.

An avid runner, Mayor Kraus has strongly supported the project and held a town hall meeting in April on the issue.

“A major goal of this administration is to create a more walkable and connected city,” the mayor said. “This includes more opportunities to access multi-purpose paths for our residents and to draw more people to our commercial retail areas.”

When completed, this trail would provide a direct, major hiking/biking/walking/jogging connection between downtown Solon and downtown Chagrin Falls and also tie to the larger Cleveland Metroparks trail system, supporters have said.

The city had submitted an application for Clean Ohio Trail Funding to be used for construction. With all funding options, if successful, the city would have about $800,000 toward the $1 million project and would just need the remaining $200,000. The recent funding of the $500,000 is on top of the $300,000 that was designated for the project earlier this year under the State of Ohio Capital Budget program.

The trail proposed would consist of a 10-foot wide, paved fully ADA-accessible pathway with a broad range of quality amenities including benches, rest areas, bike racks and pet stations.

“On a lot of the trail, there are no homes,” Mayor Kraus said, “but the ones where homes are close, I want to make sure the residents are comfortable with the type of screening,” he said. Screening could involve new fencing or the planting of trees as a barrier between the trail and private property where homes are located. “We will do it (the screening) and it is important. There are privacy issues involved.”

The residents along Aberdeen Lane in Ward 3 are the most affected.

The mayor also commented on the completion of the trail as the support from the state will assist in the initial phase of construction, which would be a 2-mile trail segment from downtown Solon at SOM Center Road to the Bentleyville village border.

“Like I always told people, I’m not doing the trail unless it is complete from Solon to Chagrin Falls,” Mayor Kraus said, “even if it has to be done in phases.”

The trail would technically go to Bainbridge Township with a short jaunt to bordering Chagrin Falls.

Solon’s part would go to the Bentleyville border then the Metroparks would be responsible for phase 2, which would be a bridge in Bentleyville over the Chagrin River to complete the trail to the Chagrin area, according to plans.

“It needs to be a regional effort,” the mayor said. “My intention is before we commence with construction of the trail, I will have a firm commitment from the Metroparks.”

Cleveland Metroparks officials support the project.

“This is a great step in building trail connections that will help enhance the health and wellness of the community of Solon and beyond,” Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman said in a written statement. “We look forward to working with the City of Solon on continued development of the trail.”

The Village of Chagrin Falls is another key partner, Mayor Kraus said.

“We congratulate Solon in getting the ODNR Grant,” Chagrin Falls Mayor William Tomko said. “These funds will help support a safe multipurpose trail that will forever link our towns and provide our residents safe access to both the Cleveland Metroparks and the Geauga Park Systems.

“This is a major plus for our two communities and builds on a long history of cooperation and working together for the benefit of our residents,” Mayor Tomko added.

Mayor Kraus also thanked a variety of other partners in moving this project forward, including Bike Cleveland, Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Geauga Park District, Chagrin River Watershed Partners and more.

The mayor said the plan is to commence the design process this winter and well into the spring. “I would love to have construction possibly in summer of 2019, but I don’t think we are there yet as far as the exact time line,” Mayor Kraus said.

He is also looking into all of the exact costs of the entire project, including the engineering work, design and screening as well as at other national and federal grants that may be available.

“We will also talk to companies for private support as well,” he added, and their names can appear on a bench along the trail, for example.

“There is much work yet to be done,” he said.

For the last decade, Sue Reid has covered the government, business climate and residents of Solon. A Times reporter for 22 years, Ms. Reid has earned commendations from the Ohio Newspaper Association and Cleveland Press Association.

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