MARCH 9, 2010
It's not often that I accuse a government agency of providing too much information. Usually it's the opposite. Feels weird.
And accuse is far too harsh a word for my reaction to the Public Open House about the Towpath Trail Extension that I went to in Tremont today. I'm not at all angry about the meeting, I'm disappointed.
The event—undoubtedly planned with the best of intentions—left me with confusion rather than clarity about the plans.
The church hall was buzzing with activity when I walked in. After a visit to the ever-present Sign In table I walked into a pretty large group of people clustered around big maps on easels.
There wasn't a sign or important-looking display giving an overview of what we visitors were supposed to do. The maps closest to the entrance were surrounded by people so I walked to another and was immediately greeted by person wearing a nametag. She offered to explain what I was looking at.
This was true everywhere I stopped. Friendly people wearing nametags asked if I had comments or questions. It wasn't for lack of trying that I started confused and left in more or less the same state.
The biggest problem is that it was hard to grasp the Big Picture, the overview of how all the individual maps (of segments of a segment of the trail) fit together. The map that labeled all the sections on the entire Stage 3 area was near the door, often hidden by a group of people.
There were also many drawings of proposed features along the trail, parking lots, overlooks, bridges, etc. They were quite sketchy, which is understandable. But I'm not sure how to give useful feedback on something that's just an idea. When asked, the helpful staff always were quick to explain that the final design wasn't done yet.
All of this is important to me. Just yesterday I went for a run along the existing part of the Towpath Trail, at bottom right on the map here.
The proposed new segment will bring the trail nearly to my own neighborhood. I have a big stake in its success. Hence my disappointment in the meeting.
So. I give the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Engineer, Metroparks, Planning Commission and Ohio Canal Corridor an "A" for effort but a "C" for success in presenting their plans in a way that allows significant public feedback.
See also: Towpath Trail Extension website
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