One was the completion of the comprehensive renovation, and upgrade, of the Tinsley Park playground which time had tested with worn and rotting wooden boards, outdated equipment and aged appearance. The popular community playground was constructed in the early 1980s.
The second marker in recreation history was the completion of the all-important Phase 5 connector of the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway. Of all the planning, design and construction that wrote the 10-year history of the Greenway, Phase 5 is arguably the most critical because it connected two existing stretches of the linear park in order to create almost four miles of uninterrupted paved trail for walkers, runners, bicyclists, skateboarders, rollerskaters, bird watchers, nature lovers and now a whole new group — those using the multi-fingered Greenway simply to get from Point A to Point B while avoiding busy street crossings, crowded intersections and inconsistent sidewalks.
Tinsley Park, named after the late Kenneth Tinsley — a member of the old Cleveland City Commission whose jurisdiction included the Fire and the Parks & Recreation departments — was the ribbon cutting’s common ground because it is part of both projects. The playground is located on the western edge of the park and Phase 5 of the Greenway winds its way through the recreational facility, and actually incorporates the old Tinsley Park Trail into its design. Plus, the playground’s renovated restrooms now serve as a second set of men’s and women’s facilities on the Greenway.
Many Greenway users point to the old Tinsley Park Trail stretch as one of the path’s most appealing sections because of the overhead canopy of trees that afford almost pure shade throughout the day.
With the completion of Phase 5, the Greenway now connects Willow Street at its southernmost point near downtown Cleveland all the way north to Mohawk Drive. Members of the Greenway Board of Directors are currently looking into short- and long-term designs that could potentially lengthen the linear park in both directions, as well as continuing to feed a network of arteries and affiliated trails.
Cameron Fisher, an avid runner who has chaired the Greenway board for years, acknowledged the joint ribbon-cutting ceremonies were low-key — not because of measure of importance, but because over the course of the past year the long-sought work to complete each phase was celebration enough for local government and Greenway leaders.
Fisher’s interest for the past decade has been the Greenway and its continued development; however, he pointed to the Tinsley Park playground as yet another feature that brings users to the Greenway. When families and children visit the playground, they are within a stone’s throw of the Greenway, he reasoned.
“The newly furnished park includes three tiers of age-appropriate and contemporary structures,” Fisher explained in a news release. “The playground is accessible to the physically challenged and includes a new restroom and water fountain. It is adjacent to existing picnic pavilions at the site, allowing families and groups to plan events and outings.”
Patti Petitt, director of the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation and daughter of former commissioner Tinsley, said the playground’s age and slow deterioration played a big hand in the decision to seek funding for its restoration.
The Tinsley Park renovation began in Spring 2011 and it has been open to the public since its completion earlier this year. The needed restoration work was funded through a match of funds that included $110,000 from the LPRF (Local Parks and Recreation Fund) and $110,000 from the city of Cleveland. Cleveland Department of Parks & Recreation workers completed the restoration work and installed the new playground equipment.
Work on Phase 5 of the Greenway was completed in June with the laying of three-fourths of a mile of asphalt over the existing Tinsley Park Trail.
“This final piece of the project connected concrete sections that were completed earlier in the spring following months of weather delays,” Fisher explained. “The day the asphalt was laid, patrons began using the trail which connected Phases 1 through 4 to complete a nearly four-mile stretch of unbroken Greenway.”
In the weeks that followed the Phase 5 opening, contractor Caldwell Paving finished the final cleanup details.
The late-September ribbon-cutting ceremony for Greenway and playground capped a four-year timeline for Phase 5, Fisher reminisced. It began in August 2008 with the receipt of a $500,000 Tennessee Department of Transportation grant. Years of preparation and permitting then led to the Phase 5 groundbreaking in early 2011.
But the Greenway board’s progress then stalled.
“Heavy rains in September 2011, derailed much of the progress, pushing the project completion date to Spring 2012,” Fisher said. These were some of the same rains that caused widespread flooding throughout the Cleveland area. Some was so severe that it damaged much of the Phase 5 work that had been done already, especially the tunneling portion of the work under Raider Drive.
But perseverance paid off for the Greenway board, the contractor and a community filled with Greenway users, most of whom were eager to make full use of the linear park’s new length.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, who held the giant scissors during the low-profile ribbon cutting and who has been a Greenway advocate since its inception, said looking back on the linear park’s history sharpens the community’s focus on the tenacity of those who have made it possible.
“It’s hard to believe the progress made on our Greenway system,” Rowland told the Cleveland Daily Banner. “We have a dedicated Greenway board, led by Cameron Fisher, who take their job very seriously.”
Their work is being noticed.
“We probably receive more compliments on the Greenway than any other facility in the city,” Cleveland’s longest-running mayor stressed. “When I think of the Greenway, I think of good health.”
He also lauded the presence of the renovated playground.
“The newly refurbished Tinsley Park playground is going to attract more families to the area and bring about a new awareness of the Greenway opportunities,” Rowland said. “These are quality-of-life projects that really project ‘The City With Spirit.’”
Rowland’s sentiments about the Greenway were echoed by Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis who also attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"The Greenway provides a tremendous benefit to the community and is a great example of city, county and private cooperation,” Davis said. “It provides not only opportunities for physical activity to improve fitness and mental health, but also preserves and restores our open spaces and improves our quality of life.”
He added, “The Greenway has become a magnet for those who want to enjoy the outdoors and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I continue to look forward to the day when someone can get on the Greenway at the Village Green and walk or ride a bike all the way to Charleston."
Given the amount of attention already paid to the Greenway, and its all-important Phase 5, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was probably anti-climactic, Fisher pointed out.
“This was a relatively quiet ceremony for such a big project,” he stated. “The Phase 5 completion caps a decade-long process that began when the first strip of asphalt was laid for Phase 1 back in 2001. There was not a lot of fanfare today, but we have done a lot of celebrating leading up to this milestone.”