Trails: A Green Umbrella Success Story
The vision: A network of multi-use trails connecting communities throughout the Greater Cincinnati region.
Trails promote active transportation, with well documented economic, quality-of-life, health, and environmental benefits.
But just a few years ago, this vision was vague, and progress toward achieving it was slow. Many organizations and volunteers, hard at work on their individual trail projects, were competing for the same resources, with little coordination or overall strategy.
Green Umbrella took on trails as part of its sustainability mission. This has turned out to be a great example of the collective impact approach to environmental sustainability.
In March 2013, Green Umbrella convened the first Regional Trails Forum. A hundred people with a wide range of interests attended, representing dozens of organizations across our nine-county region. They came away with heightened enthusiasm. They recognized the benefits of creating an alliance for continued collaboration, planning, and mutual support. One of the organizations – Interact for Health – offered generous support to fund a planning effort.
By 2015, the alliance had become Tri-State Trails, an initiative of Green Umbrella. The coalition had grown to some eighty groups. Continuing support by Interact for Health made it possible to hire a full-time director. A first-ever inventory of our trails evolved into a landmark master plan. Empowered with a unified voice, the trails community built relationships with government entities and other decision makers. Funding for planning, design, messaging, and trail construction began growing.
In 2016, the region’s metropolitan planning organization, OKI Regional Council of Governments, asked Tri-State Trails for recommendations on updating their transportation policy. As a result, bicyclists and walkers became higher priorities. The plan for 2040 now includes seventeen bike and pedestrian projects valued at $191 million, a remarkable increase from the previous three projects and $2.5 million.
Demand for walkable, bike-friendly communities is growing. Multi-use trails serve a wide range of users, including those who do not have access to a car. The active travel they encourage can have a profound impact on economic values as well as air quality, congestion, and public health.
The focus of Tri-State Trails is on making connections. The master plan envisions a 42-mile urban loop as the region’s trail hub, with some 2,000 miles of branches and connectors extending throughout southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky, and southeast Indiana. Today the network has almost 350 miles of multi-use trails, plus around 250 miles of hiking trails, 80 miles of on-road bike lanes, and 60 miles of mountain-biking trails. The website GreenUmbrella.org/TriStateTrails offers a comprehensive and interactive map of existing trails as well as the long-term plan.
Our growing network of trails promotes vibrant communities by providing equitable access to active transportation and outdoor recreation.
Written by Bob Temple, longtime member of Green Umbrella's Board of Trustees.
Green Umbrella is the leading alliance working to maximize the environmental sustainability of Greater Cincinnati. We drive collaboration to fuel measurable improvements in key areas of sustainability. Our vision is to have the region recognized as one of the top 10 most sustainable metro areas in the nation by 2020. For more information or to become a member, please visit www.greenumbrella.org.