Both actions will broaden the incentive for donors to contribute financial or material gifts which will be used to provide additional amenities, many of which are being sought by Greenway users, according to Cameron Fisher, longtime chairman of the winding trail’s board of directors.
“Activities of the last several months prompted the decision to pursue the status,” Fisher said. “Last month, the board voted unanimously to apply for a 501(c)(3).”
The Greenway board, as well as volunteers and at least one new linear park committee — the Greenway Public Arts Committee (GPAC) — have already assembled a long “wish list” of future additions for the popular four-mile fitness facility; however, all require funding. And state and federal grants, which helped to build the Greenway’s first five phases, are less available and more competitive. Local government has tried to support the linear park over the years, but budget crunches in both the city and county have limited their involvement beyond making available professional resources and strategic planning.
Most of the added amenities — such as more restrooms, benches, picnic tables, public art and distance markers, among others — are being requested by regular users.
“We are at a place in the life of the Greenway where we will be pursuing more donations and gifts to increase the quality of the Greenway experience,” Fisher pointed out.
The recent “Chalk the Walk” outdoor arts festival, whose proceeds will be used to promote public art along the Greenway, is an example of how community events up and down the trail will not only raise funds, but also expand public awareness about the facility and its plans for the future. “Chalk the Walk,” which attracted artists of all talent levels, was the first public event officially sponsored by the Greenway.
Attaining 501(c)(3) status is also about reaching out to donors who have already reached in to the Greenway, but whose would-be contributions — material, in-kind service or monetary — have been thwarted because the linear park is not an established nonprofit.
“We had one donor who wanted to support the event (“Chalk the Walk”), but had a policy that required the organizations to whom they donate to be tax-exempt,” Fisher explained. “We also recently had a fundraiser where we sold banners on the Greenway. An attractive feature to giving comes when the organization you want to support is also tax-exempt, therefore allowing the donors to claim the donation on their annual taxes.”
Fisher explained a tax-exempt status allows in-kind, as well as monetary donations, to the Greenway. Funds received from organizations, groups or individuals can be used for an array of items that will enhance the user experience, he said. Examples are trees, historical markers and benches, among others. Donations toward larger projects like playgrounds or restroom facilities also allow the donors to claim the gifts on their tax returns.
“This (seeking nonprofit and tax-exempt status) comes at a great time as the local agency, People for Care and Learning is spearheading a fund drive to build two restrooms on the Greenway,” Fisher cited. “Although gifts toward the project can be written directly to PCL to receive the tax credit, if donors prefer they can also write a check to the Cleveland/Bradley Greenway.”
Looking back on 11 years of progress, and looking ahead at the Greenway’s potential, Fisher said area residents have proven their support of the fitness trail by using it and now they’re asking for added conveniences that can improve the experience.
“We hope this is just the beginning of years of projects to come for the Greenway, and having tax-exempt status in place will hopefully make the decision of donating to the Greenway that much easier,” Fisher said.
Following the last two Monday editions that featured the linear park, and its plans for the future, the Cleveland Daily Banner on its Facebook page asked the question, “What would you like to see on the Greenway?”
Newsroom personnel who are assigned to monitor the social media site said Facebook user response has been heavy. One even described it as among the hottest recent topics posted to the Banner’s Facebook page.
Among the responses to the question — at least, the serious ones — Greenway users listed many of the same sought-after amenities that are already included in the linear park board’s wish list. A few are:
n “More benches to sit on, marked spots to know how far you’ve walked, jogged or rode your bicycle.”
n “An off-leash dog park ...,” and another added, “I love the idea of the dog park! Also, a restroom is desperately needed on the end toward Kingsway Press parking.”
n “Flowers and waterfalls and inspirational sayings ...”
n “More places to stop and rest on the Mouse Creek end ...”
n “More shelter for when pop-up storms come and more bathrooms ...”
n “Please, make those restrooms handicapped accessible.”
n “I love the idea of more restrooms, especially near the little playground, as my little one can’t make it very far when she has to go.”
n “No trees, bike path!”
One post suggested access to Automated External Defibrillators for use in cardiac emergencies. The Greenway user recommended storing them in weather-tight cases and linked with cameras to prevent theft.
Another conceded his idea might “... negate the point of being healthy and walking,” but he suggested a Sno-Biz or “something else that would have cold beverages would probably do well.” He added, “They might be able to make an athletic field or two for people wanting to play Ultimate Frisbee.”
A couple of the more clever asked for “... a big table next to the big chair” and “... moving walkways also known as travelators.”
In his biweekly column, “Keeping It Green,” which is published on the Editorial Page in the Cleveland Daily Banner, Fisher recently listed nine “wish list” items that the Greenway board is seeking to add to the Greenway experience. They were repeated in the first installment of this Banner series two weeks ago.
1. Message boards where users can get community information.
2. Dog parks where pets can be let off their leashes and allowed to run free for a few minutes before finishing their walks with their owners.
3. Public art which is now in the hands of the GPAC membership; the big yellow chair titled “Sitting Tall” by area artist Josh Coleman is the first example.
4. Outdoor gyms which are a relatively new concept featuring fitness equipment outdoors for free public use.
5. Distance markers which will identity physical distance such as miles; since the Greenway’s inception, this feature has been debated with such discussion including style, frequency and starting points.
6. Picnic tables which would be located in existing areas, or new areas that could be established where practical.
7. Event stage that could be used for family outings, impromptu concerts or even public events like 5K races or the popular Mix 104.1 Duck Race.
8. Restrooms which are among the most requested amenities; currently, two are available. One is found on Harris Circle and the other is located at the renovated Tinsley Park playground.
9. Picnic shelters similar to the one at Tinsley Park which could be provided at strategic points up and down the linear park.
According to Fisher, this is just a condensed list based on ideas by the Greenway board, committee members, volunteers and the community. He stressed the board is always open to suggestions about the next possible steps for the Greenway. Suggestions, questions or donor offers may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or they can be given to him personally, in conversation anywhere in the community or to any Greenway board member.
Fisher stressed individual or group donors don’t have to go it alone if they want to sponsor a larger project.
“If an organization [or group of individuals] wanted to contribute to a larger project, such as a restroom or playground, there could perhaps be a partnership with another organization,” he said.
“We had one donor who wanted to support the event (“Chalk the Walk”), but had a policy that required the organizations to whom they donate to be tax-exempt. We also recently had a fundraiser where we sold banners on the Greenway. An attractive feature to giving comes when the organization you want to support is also tax-exempt, therefore allowing the donors to claim the donation on their annual taxes.” — Cameron Fisher