It hasn’t been dubbed “Local History 101” — at least, not yet — but Greenway Board Chairman Cameron Fisher is ecstatic over the latest addition to the nature trail.
The running enthusiast and longtime community servant is happy for two reasons. One, Greenway users can now learn more about area history thanks to the first of several planned historical markers; and two, more are coming and potentially could keep coming as long as willing individual and corporate donors continue to share the same vision.
The first step came recently with the placement of the inaugural marker, a 4-foot high stone structure that tells the history behind the naming of the city of Cleveland. This opening marker is located between 25th Street and the Harris Circle trailhead.
Fisher stressed the markers have been planned for several years and now they are becoming reality, thanks to community donors and to the short- and long-term vision of the diversified Greenway Board comprised of local government, civic and community leaders, as well as private residents who believe in the value of exercising the body.
And now the mind.
“When the idea of historical markers was first floated, the Greenway Board agreed it wanted the markers to be a significant part of the Greenway experience,” Fisher explained in a news release announcing the Greenway additions. “The purpose will be to offer local historical facts that will teach residents [pieces of information] about this area that are perhaps not common knowledge.”
He used as an example the story of the city’s namesake, Col. Benjamin Cleveland. This marker, and others that are on the way, will become a permanent place for generations of Cleveland and Bradley County residents to learn about their community, Fisher hopes.
Because the Greenway Board is working with history, Fisher stressed the importance of assuring the information on each marker is accurate. He described the information on the first historical marker as being “checked and rechecked for accuracy” and that local historian Bob George has been integral in researching the facts and developing the wording.
The first marker, as will be the case with coming markers, is highlighted by a stacked-stone base and a large granite top.
“These granite surfaces are not cheap and they take several weeks to produce,” Fisher said. “The last thing we want is for there to be an error on the final product.”
Development of the user-friendly Greenway — which currently stretches for about two miles but whose length will double with the completion of the Phase 5 connector — has been a team effort for the past decade.
Fisher is the first to acknowledge the community effort required to get the Greenway to its current stage. It has involved not only local governments, departments and civic-minded companies, but also private individuals.
One is Greenway board member Matthew Brown, a former Bradley County commissioner, who presented the original historical marker concept to the group. The suggestions also include guidelines for continuity in signage, distance markers and other improvements along the Greenway, Fisher cited.
He pointed to the generosity of the Brown family, which donated funds for the first two markers in order to get the historical marker project up and running. The first marker has been completed and work on the second one is under way. The second is located between 17th and Willow streets.
The plan is for the historical marker momentum to build and for new donor groups, organizations, companies and individuals to get involved.
“This would be a great opportunity for local organizations to erect something permanent and informative in a place where hundreds of people pass by every day,” Fisher said. “Although not all of them have been written, there will be markers which tell about the founding of Bradley County, the area’s role during the Civil War and even some earlier history, such as where the name Mouse Creek comes from.”
In tongue-in-cheek fashion, Fisher pointed out Mouse Creek was named in honor of a band of Native Americans, not a band of rodents.
The historical marker initiative has been detailed. Strict guidelines have been set governing the type of information to be included on each marker. A line at the bottom of each marker will acknowledge the individual or organizational donor who sponsored it, Fisher explained.
The Greenway’s popularity as an exercise trail continues to grow and will expand further with the completion of Phase 5, which will connect existing — but until now separate — sections of the lane. Once completed, the latest project will connect phases 3 and 4 between Raider Drive and Tinsley Park.
In the words of Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis at last week’s groundbreaking ceremonies, “We had two pretty good Greenways already, and now they’ll be merged together once this phase gets built, and then we’ll have a great Greenway.”
Phase 5 will be finished later this year. Upon its completion, the Greenway will stretch from Willow Street to Mohawk Drive, a length of almost four miles.
Individuals, groups or organizations wanting more information about funding a historical marker or other Greenway improvements may send an email to email@example.com or call 728-7105.