Cuyahoga County is the most populous and most urbanized of Ohio’s 88 counties.
The County encompasses nearly 460 square miles with the following land uses (2019 data): Residential 53%; Parks & Open Space 15%; Industrial 9%; Commercial 6%; Institutional 5%; Transportation & Utilities 3%; Vacant 9%.
Approximately 78% of land in Cuyahoga County is fully developed and only 10% of it is considered protected open space. The remaining 12% is land that does not fall within one of the developed land cover or protected lands categories. It could be forested, agricultural, fallow, or another type of vacant undeveloped land.
The Cuyahoga County open space inventory consists of public and institutionally owned open space. Four general types are:
- Public Park
- Golf Courses, both public and private
- Other Public/Institutional, includes non-park open spaces such as airports, school campuses, and 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 communities, enhances the environmental quality of ecosystems and contributes to the economic viability of the region. Protecting and restoring natural systems, their biodiversity, habitats, and aesthetics will result in a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable County. Naturalized open space is a critical component contributing to storm resiliency which is especially important as the region confronts increasing storm severity due to climate change.
The Greenprint Viewer includes layers that identify land status as 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, the voter approval rate for bond measures to acquire parks and conserve open space exceeds 79%.
- Parks, recreation programs and services contribute to individual health. There is a correlation between lifestyles that incorporate moderate activity with a 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. The Trust for Public Land conducted a 2018 study of the Cleveland Metroparks that indicated a 5% value premium for residences proximate to reservations and trails.
- Parks and recreation programs may also provide indirect revenues to the local economy from hospitality, tourism, equipment rental, and sales.
Recommendations for Communities and Landowners
- Promote higher-density, mixed-use development to conserve land area and public resources.
- Amend zoning regulations to include design guidelines for private and public improvements that reduce parking requirements and incentivize LEED standards.
- 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 efforts.
- Establish safe, reasonable ways people can access recreation facilities or parks; in general, people will 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 of open space.
- 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 Fund and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Parks & Recreation NatureWorks Grant Programs for funding greenspace conservation or recreation needs.
Resources for More Information
- Strategic Green Infrastructure Planning – The Green Infrastructure Center, Inc. published a series of practitioners’ guides, with strategies for evaluating and conserving green infrastructure.
- The Coalition of Ohio Land Trusts – publishes information about establishing conservation easements in Ohio.
- Several conservation organizations in Cuyahoga County assist landowners in creating conservation easements:
- Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland– a collaborative multi-organization effort that addressed population decline and urban vacancy in Cleveland. This collaborative organization later published the Re-imagining a [Greater] Cleveland Action Plan to include inner-ring Cleveland suburbs In its efforts.
- The Trust for Public Land conducted a study quantifying the economic benefits of the Cleveland Metroparks System in the Economic Benefits of Cleveland Metroparks report.
- Cuyahoga County Climate Change Action Plan
- Clean Ohio Greenspace Conservation Program
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation NatureWorks Grant