“At some point, we need closure,” former Solon Councilman John T. Scott’s comment regarding the matter of a rail-to-trail conversion might have appeared to hit the nail on the head to his fellow obstructionists. But his hammer most likely was aimed at the knuckles of Mayor Edward H. Kraus, chief constructor of the plan to connect Solon and Chagrin Falls via a walking and biking trail.
At some point – actually about 21 years ago – residents living along the abandoned Norfolk and Southern railway right of way in neighborhoods southeast of Solon Road thought they had closure. It was in 1998 that the Cleveland Metroparks ran into strident opposition from residents who similarly were terrorized by the thought of pedalers and strollers careening past bucolic backyards.
So, the route by which massive trains long ago chugged through Solon sat in limbo for two decades before Mayor Kraus had the nerve to suggest that the park system had a nice idea after all. Who wouldn’t prefer fellow human beings walking and biking through their neighborhood to pollution-spewing freight trains rumbling through? Apparently, many of the people who assailed the Metroparks then and those who want the mayor to back off now.
Granted, the trains are long gone, but there’s an old saying to the effect that, if you want to control the use of land next door, you better buy it. It just so happens that the Metroparks bought the railway right of way, and the neighbors didn’t.
Poor Solon Councilman Marc R. Kotora said he has “had people cry on my shoulder” over the injustice of it all.
Reportedly, some homes are as close as 30 feet to the proposed trail. Zoning for the neighborhood prohibits structures from being less than 40 feet from rear property lines.
To be fair, residents in other Chagrin Valley communities, including Orange, Moreland Hills and Hunting Valley, have been resistant to trails that would enable bicyclers, joggers and walkers to avoid the paths of motor vehicles. Out in Chardon, though, the city is putting the final pieces together to connect its hiking and biking trail to the Geauga Park District’s Maple Highlands Trail.
Understandably, most people don’t appreciate noisy strangers spoiling the peace and quiet of their backyards, not to mention their bedrooms with open windows on otherwise pleasant summer evenings. Just ask residents of Briardale Lane and Bainbridge and Brainard roads in Solon, or Millbrook Drive in Bainbridge, for that matter. It’s not walkers and cyclists who cause such consternation; it’s the thoughtless travelers who roar past their homes in motor vehicles of high decibel levels 24 hours a day, each and every day on the Route 422 freeway.
Like neighbors of the proposed walking and biking trail in Solon, people in neighboring Bainbridge never wanted the freeway extension into their community. The Ohio Department of Transportation actually canceled the project as an unnecessary expenditure, but business and civic leaders in Solon pulled strings with Columbus politicians to revive it in 1985 at a cost of $30.5 million.
In 2002, some 400 Solon residents signed petitions requesting action on noise barriers to give them some relief from the relentless sonic infringement on their privacy. Reluctantly, city officials funded a $19,500 study into the necessity of such relief. In the end, though, ODOT determined that car and truck traffic just wasn’t noisy enough to justify the estimated $11 million price tag for barriers.
Comparing the intrusiveness of a four-lane, limited-access, 60-mph or 65-mph highway along some people’s backyards to a walking and biking trail in others may be analogous to the old apples-to-oranges idiom. But I suspect the victims of the former would be happy to trade places.
Mr. Lange is the retired editor of the Chagrin Valley Times, Solon Times and Geauga Times Courier.