Parks are the lifeblood of a community, providing residents and visitors with opportunities to enhance their physical and mental health and well-being. Solon recognizes that and is in the process of updating its community park to make it a destination for people of all ages to gather.
“The outdoors does so much for you that you can’t get inside,” says Mayor Ed Kraus. “We want to provide that in a nice, beautiful setting with new amenities where the community can come together with friends and family and be out in the fresh air.”
With COVID-19 providing a reminder of the park’s importance to the community, Solon decided it was time to start thinking about some much-needed changes. Last year, the city began evaluating the status of the park and areas of improvement, as well as conducting surveys and focus groups to get the community’s feedback on potential changes. Now, the city is in the envisioning stage, creating a written plan for the park’s future.
“Coming out of the pandemic, we saw the park experience an uptick in usage — people trying to be outdoors and be active,” says Rich Parker, director of the parks and recreation department. “As much as the community values the park, it was looking a little tired. It’s time to give it some much needed attention.”
Parker says most of 2023 will be spent designing the new facets of the park, with a lot of the construction taking place in 2024.
“It’s about creating a park that we can all use,” Kraus adds. “Some cities have small neighborhood parks. What I like about having one main park is that it’s where you meet the community — it’s a destination for celebrating our diversity and including everyone.”
A New Connection
The city also is working with the Cleveland Metroparks to install a trail that connects Solon to Chagrin Falls.
“This goes back to years ago when we developed Solon Connects to make the city more bikeable and walkable. We’re planning a city for the people,” Kraus says. “Originally, we were going to execute the Solon to Chagrin Falls trail ourselves, but we didn’t know how. So, we called the Metroparks, and they offered to install it for us.”
In partnership with the city of Solon, the Metroparks plans to break ground on the project this year, once all engineering is complete and permitting is secured.
“The Solon to Chagrin Falls trail will provide a meaningful, all ages and abilities trail connection between the communities that has been desired for decades,” says Sean McDermott, chief planning and design officer for the Cleveland Metroparks. “Aside from the incredible mental and physical health benefits of being active outdoors, trails provide an alternative to using a vehicle for transportation, increase employee retention, increase property values and support connections among users and community members.”
The Metroparks also is pursuing the acquisition of more than 149 acres of Solon’s former Hawthorne Valley Country Club property, with plans to restore it as a natural, scenic area that will serve as a habitat for plants and wildlife, while providing public access. A large fishing pond on the property will offer anglers new fishing opportunities for bluegill and largemouth bass.
“The more park space you have, it really adds to the overall quality of life,” Kraus says. “That’s how communities should be measured — your green space and your park space. That’s for the environment, and that’s the best thing you can do for the community.”
The city’s vision for the park includes:
- Playground enhancements with new, state-of-the-art equipment and adaptive features
- Tearing down the old barn and building a new facility with bathrooms and a concession area
- Adding several pickleball courts
- Installing turf to sports fields
- Improving the parking lot