Cuyahoga County is the most populous and most urbanized of Ohio’s 88 counties with approximately 78% of its land fully developed and only 10% of it considered protected open space.
The remaining 12% is land that does not fall within one of the developed land cover or protected lands and could be forested land, agricultural land, fallow land, or other types of vacant undeveloped land.1
The Cuyahoga County open space inventory consists of public and institutionally owned open space. Four general types are depicted:
- Public Park
- Golf Course: Both public and private
- Other Public/Institutional: Includes non-park open spaces such as airports, school campuses, and some publicly owned vacant land.
Open space is an important and vital part of daily life in urban areas because it improves the social health of our communities, enhances environmental quality of our ecosystems, and contributes to the economic viability of our region. Protecting and restoring natural systems, their biodiversity, habitats, and aesthetics will result in a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable County. Many existing green spaces are not readily accessible to people because they are hidden or have been historically restricted. Providing access to open space and parks can improve individual and community health.
The Greenprint Viewer also includes layers that identify land status: Probable Vacant Lot and Conservation Easements “Vacant” in this context means an individual parcel without a structure. Vacant lots are critical opportunities for assembling and conserving land where appropriate for conservation. Proximity to existing natural resources, such as riparian zones and forested areas, can help drive decision making for land acquisition and/or protection strategies.
Importance and Value
- Accessible parks and natural places are fast becoming an important quality of life feature necessary for attracting and retaining people.
- An ongoing study by the Trust for Public Land shows that over the past decade, voter approval rates for bond measures to acquire parks and conserve open space exceeds 75%.2
- Parks, recreation programs and services contribute to individual health. There is a correlation to lifestyles that incorporate moderate activity with lower prevalence of important risk factors for heart disease, including hypertension, obesity, and diabetes.
- Parks increase property values and can improve the local tax base.
- Parks and recreation programs may also provide indirect revenues to the local economy from hospitality, tourism, fuel, equipment rental and sales.
Recommendations for Communities and Land Owners
- Use capital improvements and master planning processes to make natural spaces accessible with trails and overlooks for recreation and physical activity.
- Integrate accessible open spaces into the community’s quality of life brand and marketing.
- Establish safe, reasonable ways people can access recreation facilities or parks, as people will generally walk no more than a half mile to reach them.
- Consider shared use agreements between communities and private institutions or property owners for public uses.
- Establish an open space or recreation zoning district that allows communities to reserve land for open space, parks and recreation facilities.
- Take advantage of the Clean Ohio and NatureWorks Programs as well as other funding programs to help set aside land for open space and recreation.
Resources for More Information
- Evaluating and Conserving Green Infrastructure Across the Landscape – a series of practitioners’ guides published by The Green Infrastructure Center, Inc., lays out strategies to evaluate and conserve green infrastructure.
- The Coalition of Ohio Land Trusts – details about establishing conservation easements in Ohio.
- A number of conservation organizations are active within Cuyahoga County to assist land owners in creating conservation easements, including:
- Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland– a collaborative multi-organization effort to address population decline and urban vacancy in Cleveland. The Re-imagining a [Greater] Cleveland Action Plan expanded the effort to include inner-ring Cuyahoga County suburbs.