Green Umbrella in the News

  • November 03, 2017 2:55 PM | Anonymous member

    Source: Movers & Makers Magazine

    • November 3, 2017 

    Fifteen communities and organizations in Butler and Warren counties are partnering to connect Greater Cincinnati’s two longest trails, the Little Miami Scenic Trail and Great Miami River Trail, linking Hamilton to Mason.

    The Miami 2 Miami Action Plan is to complete the multi-use trail network originally envisioned in 2002.

    That study, led by OKI Regional Council of Governments, recommended a 125-mile network of multi-use trails, bike lanes and shared roads. Since 2002, 36 miles of the network have been constructed, and an additional 37 miles outside of the original project scope now exist.

    “Liberty Township and neighboring communities have experienced significant growth over the past fifteen years, and our residents are demanding more facilities for walking and biking,” said Liberty Township Trustee Christine Matacic, who helped organize and lead the 2002 plan.  “Communities and developers around Butler County are building trails to improve quality of life, increase property values, and spur economic development.  If we all collaborate to complete the Miami 2 Miami Connection, the benefits will increase exponentially for our region.”

    The new initiative, spearheaded by Green Umbrella’s Tri-State Trails, pulls together the communities the trails go through, as well as regional stakeholders and community foundations.

    The project design team includes Human Nature and AECOM.

  • October 19, 2017 11:52 AM | Anonymous member

    Source: Cincinnati Business Courier, Erin Caproni

    Cincinnati is the most sustainable metropolitan area in the U.S., according to a new ranking from Site Selection magazine. 

    The Queen City is followed by previous top contender Boston, Seattle, Cleveland and Chicago on the list, which was created based on data related to LEED buildings, Energy Star buildings, green industry projects, Corporate Social Responsibility rankings, Measurable metro scores, brownfield grants, brownfield cleanups and Gallup/Healthways Well-Being rankings.

    Site Selection focused on Procter & Gamble Co.’s green efforts as a contributing factor to the city’s placement on the list.

    “Procter & Gamble is synonymous with its hometown and continues to pursue its own aggressive sustainability agenda,” the story states. “Among the recent steps it’s taken are investments in recycling and beneficial reuse that will eliminate all manufacturing waste from its global network of more than 100 production sites by 2020.

    The University of Cincinnati’s green efforts were also highly praised in the piece as it has built six LEED-certified buildings since 2004 and has another in the works with its new facility for the business college.

    Kristin Weiss, executive director of Cincinnati environmental organization Green Umbrella, said more sustainability efforts are in the works for the region.

    “We can look forward to more regional sustainability achievements in the future, such as improved walkable and bike-friendly communities, thanks to OKI’s inclusion of $191 million in prioritized bike and pedestrian-related infrastructure projects in the region’s 2040 transportation plan,” she said in a statement. “We also expect to see a surge in sales of locally grown food, thanks to a USDA Local Food Promotion Program grant awarded to increase sales for local producers through our region’s largest food hubs by 65 percent by 2020.”

    Overall, Ohio was No. 3 among the nation’s most sustainable states behind North Carolina and Illinois in the new ranking, while the U.S. was ranked second among countries behind Canada.

    To see the full report, click here. 

  • October 11, 2017 4:20 PM | Anonymous member

    Source: Cincinnati Business Courier, Bill Cieslewicz

    Fifteen organizations in Butler and Warren counties have partnered to re-energize a 2002 plan to connect Greater Cincinnati’s two longest trails.

    Spearheaded by Green Umbrella’s Tri-State Trails initiative, the goal of the Miami 2 Miami Action Plan is to outline a path forward to complete the multi-use trail network that will connect Hamilton to Mason via the Little Miami Scenic Trail and Great Miami River Trail.

    The Miami 2 Miami Connection Feasibility Study was originally conducted 15 years ago, led by OKI Regional Council of Governments. The study recommended a 125-mile network of multi-use trails, bike lanes and shared roads with 84 of those miles identified as priority corridors. Since 2002, 36 miles of the network have been constructed and an additional 37 miles outside of the original project scope now exist.

    “Liberty Township and neighboring communities have experienced significant growth over the past 15 years, and our residents are demanding more facilities for walking and biking,” Liberty Township trustee Christine Matacic, who helped organize and lead the 2002 plan, said in a press release.

    “Communities and developers around Butler County are building trails to improve quality of life, increase property values, and spur economic development. If we all collaborate to complete the Miami 2 Miami Connection, the benefits will increase exponentially for our region.”

    Seven communities that the network plans to traverse through – Hamilton, Fairfield, Mason, and the townships of Fairfield, West Chester, Liberty and Deerfield – have passed a memorandum of understanding solidifying their commitment to collaborate to plan, construct and maintain the trail system.

    Five additional stakeholders (Monroe, MetroParks of Butler County, Butler County Transportation Improvement District, Butler County Visitors Bureau,and Butler Tech) and three community foundations (Community Foundation of West Chester-Liberty, Hamilton Community Foundation and Fairfield Community Foundation) have contributed to the Miami 2 Miami Action Plan.

    Led by Tri-State Trails, the project design team includes Human Nature and AECOM.

    “Hamilton’s investment in the Great Miami River Trail is increasing economic activity and improving the vibrancy of our downtown,” said Hamilton City Council member Rob Wile, an avid cyclist. “The Miami 2 Miami Connection presents a tremendous opportunity to connect to other destinations and the Little Miami Scenic Trail.”

    “Mason has been steadily investing in trail connectivity in the city for more than a decade. With nearly 30 miles of existing trails, we look forward to completing our eastern segment of the Miami 2 Miami Connection by 2022, linking the Little Miami Scenic Trail to our network,” said Mason Mayor Victor Kidd. “Our business community values the trail network as an amenity to attract and retain a talented workforce.”

    The Little Miami Scenic Trail is the longest connected trail in Tri-State Trails’ 10-county service area, spanning more than 75 miles from Cincinnati to Springfield. It is also the southern leg of the 320-mile Ohio to Erie Trail connecting Cincinnati to Cleveland.

    The Great Miami River Trail is the second-longest trail with plans to span more than 95 miles to connect Fairfield to Piqua, of which 83 miles exist and 12 miles are currently being planned.

  • October 09, 2017 3:46 PM | Anonymous member

    Source: WVXU Cincinnati, Bill Rinehart

    There's a new effort to tie two local trails together. Fifteen organizations in Butler and Warren counties are working on a plan to connect the Little Miami Scenic and the Great Miami River Trails. The idea was first floated in 2002 in an OKI study according to Wade Johnston of Green Umbrella.

    He says the "Miami 2 Miami" plan will have, "The communities working together collaboratively to prioritize a single route that everyone agrees on so that we're able to reap the benefits of having a connected network instead of having pieces of network."

    Johnston says seven communities that the trail will pass through have signed on:

    • Hamilton
    • Fairfield
    • Mason
    • Fairfield Township
    • West Chester Township
    • Liberty Township
    • Deerfield Township

    Johnston says connecting the two hiking-biking paths has some challenges, but Mason already has a good foundation. "They have about 30 miles of trail, and much of the Mason network is connected."

    He admits there are some challenges. "Assembling a corridor of right-of-way and then obviously constructing it and finding the funding to construct it. So the corridors that we're really prioritizing looking at are mostly publicly owned and could be an easy win."

    Johnston says finding the funding may also be tough but he says there are another 8 organizations, both public and private that are willing to help. And he says a survey in West Chester and Liberty Township found public support for trails was high.

    He says they plan to apply for funding in the spring.

  • September 27, 2017 1:50 PM | Anonymous member

    Source: Soapbox Media, Allison Smith Cohen

    What if there was a healthy, affordable, environmentally-friendly way to get to work? What if you could skip the headache of traffic every morning?

    CROWN, formally known as the Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network, is a series of trails that loops and connects Cincinnati’s existing biking and walking trails. Interact for Health funds the promotion of CROWN, highlighting the collaboration of nonprofit, government agencies and transportation organizations to expand and promote the trail network.

    Wade Johnston is the director of Tri-State Trails, a Green Umbrella initiative that's committed to connecting and expanding the region's trail system. Tri-State Trails is one of the many organizations working to make CROWN a reality. Johnston says that CROWN will connect neighborhoods, taking us back to the basics of transportation and recreation.

    “What better way to connect neighborhoods than to connect trails?” he asks.

    The CROWN network also keeps us competitive with similar efforts happening in Louisville, Columbus and Cleveland, which are also building ways to actively transport their citizens to their destinations.

    The CROWN is founded on five pillars of benefits to our city:

    • Active transportation: “Forty percent of car rides in an urban environment are trips that are two miles or less,” says Frank Henson, the chair for Tri-State Trails. The idea is to get people safely between destinations without a car.
    • Economic development: “There’s already evidence that trails increase property values,” Johnston says, pointing out the examples of development happening along the Little Miami Trail.
    • Public health: “Ohio and Kentucky are near the bottom of public health rankings for cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” says Johnston. “If we can make it an easy choice to bike or walk every day, it can reduce healthcare costs collectively.”
    • Transportation equity: Providing biking or walking options to impoverished areas can provide additional connectivity to people who don’t have access to a car.
    • Environmental sustainability: “We have some of the worst air quality here in Cincinnati and fumes from cars contribute to that,” Johnston says. Walking and biking will have the added benefit of improving air quality and lowering the instances of pulmonary diseases.

    The work for the CROWN network is ongoing, with 48 miles of the 104-mile network already built. The vision is to have the entire network completed in 5-10 years.

    Meanwhile, citizens can enjoy the portions of the CROWN that already exist (check out the map below). A detailed map can be found on CROWN's website.

    “It’s very appropriate for the Queen City to have a CROWN,” Johnston adds.

  • September 27, 2017 12:57 PM | Anonymous member

    Source: Produce Perks Midwest, Barbie Vargo

    Fresh, healthy produce is now more affordable in Cincinnati for people shopping with SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps).  Produce Perks Midwest, an area non-profit helping Ohio residents stretch their SNAP dollars, is excited to announce the launch of its Produce Perks program, which provides a dollar for dollar match to SNAP customers to spend on fruits and vegetables, at Clifton Market.  

    When customers spend their SNAP/EBT dollars at participating locations, Produce Perks DOUBLES their purchasing power at participating locations. The Produce Perks program provides a $1-for-$1 match for SNAP customers (up to $10 per day) for fruits, vegetables, herbs, seeds, and seedlings.

    Produce Perks began in 2014 by serving SNAP customers at 5 Cincinnati farmers’ markets. This year, SNAP shoppers can find Produce Perks at more than 20 farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs throughout the Greater Cincinnati area!  And now, Produce Perks Midwest is adding grocery stores to the list as a way to further increase access to affordable local fruits and vegetables.

    Clifton Market, located at 319 Ludlow Ave, Cincinnati, OH, is a community-owned grocery store that stocks regionally-grown fruits and vegetables.  SNAP shoppers will receive a 50% discount up to $10 per day on any fruit and vegetable purchase, empowering them to buy healthful, local produce even on a limited budget.

    Produce Perks Midwest continues to increase the number of sites offering the Produce Perks match in the Greater Cincinnati region and is working with organizations throughout Ohio and Wholesome Wave, a national nonprofit, to expand the Produce Perks program to serve more Ohioans. 

    Learn more about Produce Perks Midwest and find a market or retail site that offers the match at

    Learn more about Clifton Market at, or by calling the store at 513-861-3000.

  • September 13, 2017 4:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Enquirer, Monroe Trombly

    A new organization Wednesday unveiled an ambitious vision: Connect Cincinnati's existing trail systems to create a bicycling and hiking network over one hundred miles. 

    At an estimated at 104 miles, the Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network (CROWN) seeks to create an "interconnected, active transportation network" to revolutionize the way people move around Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

    All that's standing in the way is $45.7 million. CROWN does not have a clear way to raise the money.

    This unified vision plans to link the existing Little Miami Scenic Trail, Ohio River Trail East, Mill Creek Greenway Trail, Lunken Airport Trail, and Otto Armleder Trail to the proposed Wasson Way, Oasis Trail, Ohio River Trail West, and Little Duck Creek Trail.

    At the heart of the CROWN network would be the 30-mile Urban Trail Loop, bringing approximately 242,000 people within one mile of a bike trail.

    Nine miles out of thirty have been completed already.

    To see which trails or lanes have been built in which neighborhood, consult a larger version of the map here:

    The project is being spearheaded by Tri-State Trails, Green Umbrella, and a coalition of bicycling advocates, nonprofit organizations, and various representatives of governmental agencies.

    CROWN network partners cited improving public health, protecting the environment and promoting social equity as their main goals. 

    "We really value that it will go through some of our most vulnerable population groups, said Megan Folkerth of Interact for Health. "In many cases those groups don't have access to cars and this network will help them get where they need to go everyday."

    Wade Johnston, Director of Tri-State Trails, says he is confident the money will be raised, citing recent expansions of trails such as the Little Miami Scenic Trail and Canal Bikeway route and trails under construction. 

    The Wasson Way Trail has partial funding thanks to $200,000 from the city of Cincinnati, and The Ohio River Trail West will see two miles constructed in 2019.

    Organizations involved in the CROWN project include Queen City Bike, Cincy Red Bike, Great Parks of Hamilton County, Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance, Interact for Health, and OKI Regional Council of Governments.

    CROWN is the new face and an expansion of Tri-State Trails' Cincinnati Connects project that envisioned 42 miles of biking trails in 2015.

    Cincinnati Connects worked with the City of Cincinnati to implement Phase I of the city's Bicycle Transportation Plan, first started in 2010 and outlines 15 years of bicycle infrastructure recommendations.

    The city of Cincinnati is ranked #36 in "The 50 Best Bike Cities of 2016" by, citing the recent uptick in bicycling interest over the last few years and the success of Central Parkway's bike lanes. 

  • September 13, 2017 3:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WCPO (Video available), Pat LeFleur

    CINCINNATI -- A major mixed-use trail proposal in the Tri-State is about to get a new name, and with it an even wider scope.

    Formerly called Cincinnati Connects, the CROWN -- that is, the Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network -- consists of a number of cycling advocates, trail builders and community leaders committed to creating what could become a more-than 100-mile trail network throughout the city. That would include both existing on- and off-road bike lanes and trails, as well as projects in progress.

    It would also put roughly 242,000 Cincinnati residents within a mile of paved trail access, according to chair of local advocacy group Tri-State Trails, Frank Henson.

    "This is a bold, new vision," Henson said. 

    The idea is to connect four major trail projects currently underway: the Mill Creek Greenway Trail, the Ohio River West Trail, the Oasis Trail and Wasson Way Trail, among other smaller trails throughout the county and along the riverfront, Henson said. The plan would also build six new connector trails in order to complete the network.

    Tri-State Trails teamed up with Queen City Bike, Red Bike, and the Urban Basin Bicycle Club as the major organizations behind the plan, which they unveiled Wednesday during a meet-and-greet at the foot of the Roebling Bridge in Smale Park. That stretch of the riverfront is part of the Ohio River Trail, extending east into Sawyer Point.

    "It's a collaboration with any and all of the groups and people who are interested in developing this active transportation network," Henson said.

    While the trail system is in proximity of such a large portion of Cincinnati residents, even those living beyond the city limits see major value in it.

    Joe Humpert of Fort Wright in Northern Kentucky commutes almost exclusively by bicycle and attended today's unveiling.

    "I've always enjoyed it because it saves me from having to worry about gas and insurance and paying for parking and finding parking," he said.

    But he said the region would benefit from more trails being connected.

    "I spend a lot of time riding on the road right now," he said.

    The CROWN would connect -- via the Purple People Bridge -- with the also in-progress Riverfront Commons project stretching across Northern Kentucky's riverfront, which also connects with the Licking River Greenway heading south into Kenton County.

    Henson said CROWN expands upon what organizers did with Cincinnati Connects, in that it now incorporates elements of the city's bicycle transportation plan, a 15-year plan first established in 2010, but one that hasn't gotten as much traction as advocates initially hoped.

    "It has taken the Cincinnati Connects plan with elements of the bicycle transportation plan," Henson said. "I believe it's going to create a vibrant active transportation network."

    Those elements include things like the Central Parkway protected bike lane, other striped bike lanes, and shared-use traffic lanes that boast "sharrows" -- that is, painted arrows indicating frequent bike traffic sharing the road along the route.

    The initial trail design came from 15 months of technical work and planning, looping representatives from the city administration, Queen City Bike, Great Parks of Hamilton County, the Cincinnati Park Board, the Cincinnati Health Department, OKI Regional Council of Governments and Interact for Health, among others.

    Folding in the city's bike lanes added more connectivity to the plan, Henson said, especially to the region's more central neighborhoods.

    "It became apparent that having a circular route around the city really didn't get people into the core of our community," he said. "It touches all the edges, but in order to get people beyond that, we looked and saw these various connectors."

    Henson calls it a "braided network."

    "Just like the word means, you have interconnected, weaving connectors that allow people to get more places," he said.

    The only missing piece is how organizers plan to pay for the necessary connector trails, which-- including remaining work on the major trails -- would total around $45 million.

    "We're not sure how it'll get paid for yet," Henson said.

    Funding possibilities primarily include state and federal grants, including those like the federal Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality grant, from which two of the major trails have already received funding in recent years.

  • June 30, 2017 1:50 PM | Deleted user

    Source: PLAN4Health

    Last year, the Kenton County Plan4Health Coalition (KCP4H) held a food policy summit to kick off the start of the local food policy council. The Summit brought together over 20 exhibitors, with each exhibitor showcasing healthy and nutritious eating habits as well as local food production and consumption. There were several featured panel discussions about regional food system issues and the local food resources that were available.

    The Summit also featured the local chefs collaborative preparing meals with a twist using local sourced foods and environmentally sustainable dinnerware. The event began a dialogue around food system gaps and how to take action to create healthier communities.

    This year, in celebration of the work of the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council, the Council scheduled two food system tours to educate policymakers, the media and planners on the positive impacts that a food system had on their community. The goal was to provide key partners with a perspective of food system policy being important and a part of the policy portfolio that needed to be addressed.

    The tours focused on two geographic areas: sites within Cincinnati and sites throughout Northern Kentucky. Tours included short stories from site managers about their successes, challenges, and the programming offered. The tour participants met and visited many stakeholders, including farmers, gardeners, distributors, processors and emergency food providers to better understand the rich array of programs and activities that support economic development and food security in communities.

    The tours took attendees to these stops:

    1. Gabriel’s Place: Attendees learned how to operate a community garden, participated in cooking classes and experienced a farmer’s market. Gabriel’s Place provides seed to table food education in Avondale.

    2. Freestore Foodbank: Freestore Foodbank is one of Ohio’s largest food banks, distributing 23 million meals annually through a network of 350 community partner agencies that serve 20 counties in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. These community partner agencies include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, community centers, program sites, senior centers and daycare facilities. Freestore also operates a culinary job training program, a community farm, the weekend Power Pack program and after school meals programs.

    3. Our Harvest: Our Harvest is a farmer-owned cooperative that distributes local produce year-round throughout Cincinnati. Through the creation of farm jobs that pay sustainable wages and utilizing responsible growing practices, Our Harvest is strengthening the local food system in Cincinnati. Through strategic partnerships and advocacy they make access to fresh, local food possible in all of Greater Cincinnati.

    4. CincySprouts: CincySprouts is an entrepreneurial-based learning project that began in order to provide farmers and gardeners in the Cincinnati area with plants and seedlings that had been grown locally without the use of chemical herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers. The seedlings are germinated in a nursery or on one of the farms that remains within the city of Cincinnati, Ohio. CincySprouts offers several wholesale options for local growers and customizable retail purchase options for gardeners.

    5. Jubilee Farm: Working to eliminate food scarcity in Cincinnati with fresh, locally grown produce, Jubilee uses outdoor gardens, indoor herbs and hydroponics. They also provide job training and community building.

    The 2017-2019 policy agenda of the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council is divided into four buckets:

    • healthy food access and consumption
    • distribution and procurement
    • production and land use
    • assessment, planning, zoning, and food waste

    If you’d like more information about the work of the food policy council, check out the Green Umbrella Regional Sustainability Alliance.

    Learn more about the work of the Kenton County Plan4Health Coalition.

  • June 28, 2017 1:46 PM | Deleted user

    Source: CityBeat

    A plan to link Cincinnati’s scattered cycling infrastructure could empower low-income riders

    The proposed network of trails could one day connect nearly every Cincinnati neighborhood.

    Rick Perryman is a bike mechanic, bike infrastructure advocate and hardcore cyclist.

    That description might make you picture a guy of a certain income, maybe even of a certain race, in spandex, advocating for a trail in Hyde Park, or a fixie-riding Millennial pushing bike lanes in Over-the-Rhine. 

    That’s not Perryman. But he is definitely a cyclist. 

    “It’s the best way to get around,” says Perryman, who lives in Winton Hills and goes by the nickname Yo. “I didn’t start driving until I was 29, but I’ve always had a bike.”

    For years, he rode back and forth 10 miles between Winton Hills and his job at Bakery Craft, a cake decoration factory in Glendale. Bakery Craft shut down last year, and Perryman, in his late 50s, doesn’t ride as much these days because of asthma and other breathing issues. But he has found other ways to stay involved in cycling. 

    Perryman and others — like Winton Hills Community Council President Nikki Steele and community engagement coordinator Dazree Boyd — are working to get a bike and walking trail built in their neighborhood. They’ve gotten help from the Cincinnati Health Department and nonprofits Interact for Health and Groundwork Cincinnati, which has done extensive work to bring trails to the Mill Creek Valley.

    The segment of trail would fill a 1.3-mile gap between bike lanes on busy Este Avenue and the Mill Creek Greenway Trail near Spring Grove Cemetery, giving Winton Hills residents better connection to groceries, jobs and recreation.

    “I see a group of riders riding down Este all the time,” Perryman says. “The bike lane just kind of ends. Where could we go from there?”

    For groups like Groundwork advocating for the trail, that question is part of a larger, more ambitious plan called Cincinnati Connects that could give residents in low-income neighborhoods better access to the city as a whole.

    Discussion around bike paths and lanes usually centers around the idea they’re amenities for recreational cyclists or drivers of urban revitalization designed to lure young professionals who want to commute to their downtown jobs. But those aren’t the only people using bicycles in Cincinnati and other cities across the country.

    According to 2015 Census data, about half of the people who commute to work by bike make below $25,000 a year. Granular data for Cincinnati isn’t readily available, but cyclists like Perryman will tell you low-income riders are more common than most people realize, especially in places like Winton Hills where levels of car ownership are far lower than average.

    Adding cruel irony to the hurt of economic disadvantage, neighborhoods where people would be most likely to need to rely on bicycles are often the least likely to be served by bike infrastructure. 

    “Walking or biking to work for some people is something extra, but for others, it’s a necessity,” Megan Folkerth of Interact for Health says about her organization’s interest in bike paths in the Mill Creek Valley and Cincinnati Connects generally. “Our focus and real interest is in making sure that, for people for whom that is their main form of transportation, we make it safe and accessible for them.”

    A grant from Interact, the Health Department and Groundwork created Boyd’s position as project manager for the bike path last year. She hit the ground running, organizing planning sessions and trips to scout out possible trail routes last summer. 

    “It almost feels unfair,” Boyd says of the disconnect Winton Hills faces. “People want to get out into other neighborhoods, go to parks and trails, see other parts of the city.”

    Working with Perryman and other Winton Hills residents, including a number of bike-obsessed neighborhood youth, Boyd and her crew plotted an ideal path and worked with experts to design the trail. Now they’re waiting for a final report from Groundwork and funding to fall into place. 

    “Basically, we wanted to see how best to connect our neighborhood with trails to make the grocery store and other places our neighbors need to go more accessible,” Steele says. “We want to connect our neighborhood the way every other neighborhood connects, and we want it to look as nice as any other neighborhood.”

    To fully grasp Winton Hills’ need for a bike path, you have to understand the neighborhood itself. Sitting at the northern crown of Cincinnati between Carthage and College Hill, the neighborhood is mostly made up of Winton Terrace and Findlater Gardens, both Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority developments. Those developments were first built in 1940s as white-only subsidized housing. By the 1960s, however, those racial separations were lifted and Winton Terrace quickly became majority black. 

    Today, the neighborhood is a prime example of Cincinnati’s pervasive racial and economic segregation. It is 90 percent black with a median household income of less than $11,000, Census data shows. It’s also an illustration of the environmental and transportation barriers low-income people often face. 

    Just 15 percent of Winton Hills’ 4,787 residents own their own cars, according to a report by the Cincinnati Health Department. On an average weekday, residents must make a 45 minute to one-hour bus ride to get to downtown, just six-and-a-half miles away. 

    The feeling of isolation residents can face is compounded by the neighborhood’s surroundings. A heavy fence of smoke stacks and industry, including chemical plants, auto salvage yards and fuel refineries, line the southern border of the neighborhood along with the clipped, unnatural hills of a shuttered landfill. 

    The Mill Creek itself has been something of an environmental hazard due to the industry around it. In 1997, the waterway was named the most endangered urban river in America by national conservation organization American Rivers.

    “Winton Hills is high-density public housing,” Groundwork Cincinnati’s Tanner Yess says. “It’s isolated geographically, it’s isolated by its physical environment. It’s right across the street from a landfill, right across the street from two or three chemical companies that are spewing whatever odorous gasses into the community.”

    But it’s not all gloom in Winton Hills. The neighborhood’s community center buzzed on a recent weekday as Perryman sat out in the sun talking about bicycles. He has become something of a community hub for all things two wheels. Steele, the community council president, would like to start a bicycle club with Perryman at the helm — but in many ways, he’s already there.

    Perryman is Winton Hills’ resident bike mechanic, working from his apartment to fix flat tires, change out seats and work free of charge on anyone’s bike who might happen to come by. He has a big bin of extra parts and a couple bikes of his own he tinkers with.

    He’s “old school,” he says, and brags that he can fix three or four flats with a single inner tube patch.

    His role as community bike doctor started seven years ago, he says. At the time, he was between homes, riding everywhere and carrying everything he needed, including bike tools, in his backpack. 

    “One day I caught a flat down the street at a friend’s house, and next thing I knew, here come five kids with their bikes. So I had five bikes plus mine sitting upside down waiting to be fixed,” he says, laughing. “Then I ended up getting a place here, and they come through to my house to get their bikes fixed now. It makes me feel good to see them riding. As long as they’re riding, I feel good.” 

    Perryman says he likes to pass along his excitement for biking to younger generations. He leads youth rides at nearby Spring Grove Cemetery and sees the potential trail as a way to extend healthy, safe recreation options for kids in a neighborhood without very many.

    He found his passion for bike trails a few years ago when he rode from Warren County to Yellow Springs with a friend. He says the trip opened his eyes to the possibilities of bike trails.

    “I really enjoyed that ride,” Perryman says. “It feels disconnected here because of how far we have to go to connect to other trails, like the Lunken Trail. Every community needs a trail, I think. I see a lot of older people riding their bikes, and we need to be connected.” ”

    Winton Hills’ disconnected, often-industrial landscape typifies Cincinnati’s Mill Creek Valley from north of the neighborhood south through Millvale, North and South Fairmount to Lower Price Hill near the Ohio River. The area’s health, economic and connection challenges are something Groundwork has been working to address.

    The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service founded the organization as an urban-centered community engagement effort. Cincinnati’s Groundwork branch started in 1994, and the program is now in 23 mostly post-industrial cities. 

    Groundwork Cincinnati started focusing on bike trails in 2004, Yess says, building a small section of trail northeast of Winton Hills at Caldwell Park in Carthage. 

    Another portion, the Mill Creek Greenway Trail, was created in 2008 and 2009. That trail now runs in segments — including a portion north of Winton Hills and a southern portion near Spring Grove Cemetery. The latter segment of trail runs all the way down to Ethel Taylor Middle School in Millvale. Much of the funding for those portions was provided by state grants associated with the Ohio Clean Trail fund, with Interact for Health or the city providing local matches. 

    Now, Groundwork, Interact, the Cincinnati Health Department and other groups are working on filling in the gaps in the trail, including the one going through Winton Hills. Eventually, they envision a 14-mile continuous path along the Mill Creek. 

    Neighborhood activists in Northside are working to fill another gap in bike lanes between that neighborhood and the southern part of the trail along Spring Grove Ave., an effort that has picked up momentum in recent months as the city works on redesigning the segements of the road near the I-74 overpass.

    But beyond filling the gaps in the Mill Creek Trail is an even bigger vision that will take years to attain. 

    In 2015, the organizations involved in the Mill Creek Trail, plus other local trail initiatives, Queen City Bike, the city and county parks departments and other groups released a blueprint for a comprehensive bike trail system called Cincinnati Connects. The plan would eventually create a 42-mile loop around Cincinnati, passing through 33 of the city’s neighborhoods and putting 81 percent of the city’s population within a mile of a bike path. 

    The plan looks to link together major bike trails underway or in the planning stages across the city. Those include the Mill Creek Trail, the Ohio River Trail and Wasson Way, an effort to eventually build a 7.6-mile trail from Avondale to Newtown. 

    That proposal is a good example of what can happen when cyclists advocate for bike paths— and also the need to link that infrastructure.

    The city of Cincinnati recently paid $12 million for a 4.1-mile stretch of railroad right of way between Montgomery Road and Wooster Pike and plans to start construction on that portion of the trail this fall. As much as another $11 million in construction costs are expected for that project. 

    Wasson Way, which will run through several affluent suburbs and Cincinnati neighborhoods like Hyde Park, has momentum behind it, a fact that illustrates both the potential for trails and the challenges they present. 

    “We notice the difference between amenities in neighborhoods where people are living until 80 versus neighborhoods where people are living to 66,” Folkerth, from Interact for Health, says. “It’s our responsibility as a community to do something about that. Wasson Way’s a great project. I think it’s fantastic. But what we as a community have spent on the Wasson Way, versus what we’ve spent on the Mill Creek — it’s been a struggle. Those communities that have higher incomes have money to advocate.”

    Wade Johnston, director of Tri-State Trails, an advocacy organization run by nonprofit Green Umbrella, agrees. Johnston hosted a session on equity and bicycle infrastructure June 9 during Green Umbrella’s Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit at Xavier University. He says lower-income communities often don’t get as much of a say in decisions around cycling infrastructure because their opinions aren’t sought out enough — even though that infrastructure could help those communities the most.

    “A safe, strong biking and walking community produces significant social gains, reducing health disparities, lowering household transportation expenses, creating jobs, lowering air pollution, reducing mental health problems and reducing violence by increasing community cohesion,” he says. “But often, communities that could most benefit from those kinds of projects and infrastructure are the communities being neglected in the planning process.”

    Beyond the equity questions, Wasson Way illustrates the difficulties facing bike paths. Securing land rights from the myriad property owners along a trail’s path can be challenging, and trails are much more expensive to build than on-street bike lanes — between $500,000 and $1 million per mile, as opposed to just a few thousand dollars a mile for on-street bike lanes. Johnston says both are necessary to really create an efficient, sustainable cycling system that can allow riders access to the whole city.

    Advocates admit that linking up four major city trails — which themselves need more work — with six smaller connectors to create their 42-mile loop is a major lift. They’re looking toward federal grants, perhaps Transit Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, funds administered by the Federal Department of Transportation, as a possible way to provide much of the more than $21 million needed to complete the connector trails alone.

    The federal government has turned down applications by the city for TIGER funds for Wasson Way twice — but, advocates point out, it isn’t a city-spanning, comprehensive project, which the feds usually prioritize. 

    Linking the paths will allow the trails to go from recreational amenities to truly transformational opportunities for city residents, Folkerth says.

    “It’s great that we have these amenities, but if the Wasson Way has four miles that doesn’t connect to anything, and the Ohio River Trail doesn’t connect to anything and the Mill Creek Trail doesn’t connect to anything, how are people going to get around our city?”

    Other cities have completed similar comprehensive loops. One of the most notable is Portland, Ore. That city’s greater metropolitan area has more than 550 miles of off-street bike trails, and the city itself has more than 90 miles of on-street bike lanes and bike-friendly streets, according to Oregon Metro, the area’s regional government.

    But cities closer to home might be better comparisons, Groundwork’s Yess says. 

    “I think it’s more effective to look at places more like us that do this well. We can all look at Portland, but that’s not really realistic for Cincinnati.” 

    Yess cites Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Minneapolis as cities that have taken big strides in their bicycle infrastructure. 

    Indianapolis is a good example of the kind of connectivity Cincinnati Connects advocates are striving for. Its widely acclaimed Cultural Trail isn’t huge — just an eight-mile loop through the city’s downtown — but it connects to other trails that run farther out as well as the city’s 75 miles of bike lanes. The trail took six years and a $20.5 million TIGER grant secured in 2008 to complete.

    Minneapolis, Bicycling Magazine’s sixth-best city for bicycling last year, is on track to complete a 30-mile network of protected bike lanes throughout the city by 2020 and already has 40 miles of bike trails it began constructing in the 1990s. Despite harsh winters, the city has among the highest percentage of cyclists commuting to work in the country. 

    Even if Cincinnati were to get to the level of Minneapolis or Indianapolis in the near future, it wouldn’t solve all of the problems in neighborhoods along the Mill Creek, Yess says. But it would help empower residents there.

    “I think it’s useful to say that trails aren’t the answer, necessarily,” Yess says of inequities facing places like Winton Hills and Millvale. “Trails aren’t going to put food on your table. But they’re part of a system that can improve your quality of life. When you’re able to let people take the lead in these communities, then they can see the value in that and decide if it’s something they want to support. It’s always helpful to say, ‘Don’t you deserve that?’”

    For cyclists like Perryman, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

    “If we could have our own trails, quick access to where we need to go, we wouldn’t even need to be on the main roads,” he says. “I think we need it. I don’t know how long it will take, but I think it’s really worth it.” ©

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