Breathing New Life into a Tribute Trail

Strongsville, OH | December 2013 | By National Recreation and Park Association

Breathing New Life Into a Tribute Trail 410

In Strongsville, Ohio, a paved trail leads from the town commons to the recreation and senior center, meandering along the way through a series of gardens. Each garden represents one war in which Americans have fought. As visitors walk or bike along the Strongsville Freedom Trail, they pass through both a timeline of American history and a tribute to the local citizens who served their country through military service. There is a sprawling, volunteer-built playground along the trail—and a gazebo where the local historical society has inscribed the name of each of Strongsville’s veterans.

The trail and the playground, while much loved by the community, were beginning to fall into disrepair. Vandals had destroyed many of the lights along the path, the drinking fountain had become dilapidated and unappealing, and the 4,500-square-foot playground was aging. Bryan Bogre, Strongsville’s parks director, was dismayed not only by the rundown appearance—but also by the lack of accessibility for both the trail and its surrounding amenities.

The award of a Great American Trails grant provided Strongsville Parks and Recreation with the funds to spruce up the Freedom Trail—and, just as importantly, the momentum needed to leverage additional funding. Altogether, the Freedom Trail received $37,000 in repairs and enhancements.

“The grant,” Bogre says, “got the ball rolling to get some of the stuff done that really needed to be done.”

The refurbished trail now spotlights the memorial gardens—and offers visitors greater safety—with 22 vandal-resistant lights. The grant also allowed the town to widen the trail pavement for wheelchair accessibility, make some playground repairs, and install an attractive new fountain, concrete-mounted trash cans, and several ADA-accessible, octagonal picnic tables.

The new, attractive amenities invite increased trail use while discouraging vandalism. Bogre says one of the most important additions was the new drinking fountain. “It may seem like a trivial thing, but people have been very thankful that we have it there.” And in the open area near the water fountain, the new landscaping and picnic tables provide a welcoming gathering area for people walking the trail or using the playground.

The trail gets heavy use from pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages—but it is especially valuable to the senior community as a transportation route. Bogre says residents of a nearby senior apartment complex walk the trail each day to get to activities at the senior center. “Without a safe trail,” he comments, “they’d have to walk on the roadway.”

LongHorn Steakhouse employees showed up on workdays to pour concrete for mounting trash cans. And their volunteering at the trail site has now evolved into discussions of other volunteering roles— from running children’s games at the local Halloween festival, to exploring a partnership role in the agency’s community wellness and nutrition programs.

LongHorn’s contributions and volunteer efforts in the community have been highly visible to the public, Bogre concludes—and the partnership between restaurant and parks continues to evolve. “It promises to be a good relationship, budding slowly but surely for the future.”