Green Umbrella’s Tri-State Trails initiative champions the region’s vast cycling options
Danny Korman has long been one of the most recognizable faces of Cincinnati’s green movement. In 2007, he founded the inimitable Park + Vine green general store in Over-the-Rhine, which became a haven for environmentalists, vegetarians and cyclists alike. He’s been known to zoom his bicycle all over town in all sorts of weather — he’s Cincinnati’s quintessential conscientious urban nice guy.
Korman closed Park + Vine early this year after nearly a decade in business, but his new venture looks right at home on his résumé: Tri-State Trails Ambassador for Green Umbrella, the main nonprofit advocating for a more sustainable future for the region. The Tri-State Trails initiative works to promote the region’s various trail networks to encourage “active transportation” and outdoor recreation.
CityBeat checked in with Korman to see how the new gig is going and to ask how we might better utilize these underappreciated resources.
CityBeat: What is remarkable about the Tristate’s system of trails? Are our trails awesome or what?
Danny Korman: Yes, our trails are awesome. Green Umbrella is collecting data that shows Greater Cincinnati as a mecca for outdoor recreation, which includes trails. We have more than 400 miles of trails. Everyone’s favorite — Little Miami Scenic Trail — is the third-longest paved trail in the country. A network of six cities in Northern Kentucky along the Ohio River is seeking Kentucky Trail Town designation.
CB: What type of variety are we talking about? Urban trails? Recreational? Commuter?
DK: The ideal is to have a network that is welcome to all types of folks. Generally, the initial perception is that trails are for recreation. The changing perception is that trails are for transportation, too. It’s taking time to build a comprehensive network here that includes roads and reaches more places, including parks, business districts, employment centers and neighborhoods. The biggest advancement in local trail development is Wasson Way, the 7.6-mile mixed-use trail that will ultimately extend from Victory Parkway near Xavier University through 12 neighborhoods and connect to the Little Miami Scenic Trail. Land acquisition is usually the biggest hurdle when it comes to trail development. Roads already exist and make sense because they’re less expensive than new trails. The goal is to build it for everyone and to make Cincinnati healthier. We need the infrastructure to do this.
CB: What do people need to know before hopping on an urban or off-road trail?
DK: I get a sense of the day’s weather forecast and plan accordingly for my rides to and on trails. There’s very little that stops me from riding, however, including rain and the cold. I make sure that I have some cash, a reflective garment, lights, a bike lock, my phone and all my keys.
CB: You’re a longtime urban bike commuter. What’s nice about hopping on a trail either as part of your commute or for a long ride through the wilderness?
DK: I am primarily a road cyclist, because of where I live and what I’m used to. I’ll jump on a trail when I get the chance and to mix up a ride. It’s easy to get immersed on a long bike ride, and I build in those sort of adventures whenever I get the chance. It’s part of the human condition to ruminate. It’s important to actively do things that offset our tendency to over-think. Being in nature is the offset.
CB: Last summer, your organization hosted a regional trails summit and the theme was “Making the Economic Case for Trails.” Share some of this case.
DK: This panel included developers and representatives from Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and the University of Cincinnati. The purpose was to impress that trails have economic value. Trails positively impact communities because they add transportation alternatives and improve property values, which means more tax revenue. In 2011, a study showed that property owners within 1,000 feet of the Little Miami Scenic Trail around Loveland were willing to pay a $9,000 premium.
CB: The Cincinnati Connects Urban Loop Trail is an ambitious plan that would connect several existing and planned trails from every side of town. How could this help with mobility and connectivity in the region?
DK: Cincinnati Connects is gaining momentum. (Tri-State Trails Director Wade Johnston) and the committee are working with BLDG on developing a brand for the 42-mile urban loop trail that emphasizes both biking and walking. The exciting part of Cincinnati Connects is that it would make bicycling safe and comfortable for people of all ages and to people of color, who are underrepresented in many local transportation decisions.
CB: What should the average person know about cycling in general and the opportunities to get out on two wheels in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky?
DK: There are a bunch of ways to get information and get riding. The best thing to do is find a friend who’s into bicycling and ride with them. It could be a simple ride around Spring Grove Cemetery or Lunken Airport, along Cincinnati’s riverfront parks or on neighborhood streets. May is National Bike Month and Cincinnati is loaded with supportive rides and events.
CB: What is your No. 1 goal as you get up to speed in your new role?
DK: I’m excited about returning to my roots of bicycling advocacy and working alongside Cincinnati’s diverse bicycle culture, which includes Tri-State Trails, Queen City Bike under the leadership of Frank Henson, Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance, Cincy Red Bike, multiple trail groups and 38 bicycle shops.
CityBeat: Are there any other Tri-State Trails initiatives you’d like to mention?
DK: As part of Bike Month, we’re hosting the Canal Bikeway Ride May 21 to highlight the full spectrum of bike infrastructure Cincinnati has to offer. This part of the city includes multi-use trails, protected and standard bike lanes and shared paths that provide safe connections with Metro bus lines and the Cincinnati Bell Connector between six neighborhoods.
For more info about TRI-STATE TRAILS, visit greenumbrella.org.