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Several trends have been identified that give a clearer picture of the challenge before us in the area of Recreation, and may also suggest some areas of greatest vulnerability (or opportunity), where connections with appropriate community assets could be helpful:

  • Rise in Obesity: Americans in general are getting fatter. In 2003 approximately 24.5% of adult Americans were obese and another 40% were overweight; and these numbers have been climbing over the last 20 years. Ohio is no exception. According to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, 24% of Ohioans are obese; 12.9% of Ohio high school students are obese; and 11.1% of low-income children ages 2 to 5 are overweight. Obesity rates for low-income groups, it seems, are approximately twice as high as those for high-income groups; and obesity is a gateway to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases. Nor is obesity is just an issue for adults. Childhood obesity is also on the rise.

    Obesity is also a financial issue. It not only levies a cost on the individual in terms of health and quality of life, it impacts the entire community in the form of higher health care costs, which raises everyone’s insurance premiums. The Trust for America’s Health estimated that in 2003 Ohio spent $3.3 billion dollars on obesity-related medical care. Half of obesity related care is financed by Medicare and Medicaid. Meanwhile, Ohio spends $289 per person per year on medical costs related to obesity.

    The causes of obesity can include genetic predisposition and ethnicity, fast-food and full-service restaurant growth, unhealthy food environments, smoking and physical inactivity. Physically active jobs were the norm in 1950, but sedentary employment is now twice as common. Lack of physical education in the school day, too much time in front of the television or computer and lack of leisure-time physical activity and recreation contribute to weight gain. Developmental patterns that necessitate an over reliance on automobile travel and discourage physical activity are also part of the problem, while the lack of easily accessible and attractive parks and open space relegates many city residents to a sedentary, largely indoor existence. Driving downtown to see a Cavaliers game is not the same as tossing a few hoops yourself at a neighborhood court.

  • Abandoned and underused rail corridors provide opportunities to create greenways in the City. [Kingsbury Run area]
    Dwindling Greenspace: Cleveland was once known as the “ Forest City”. With the spreading out of the metropolitan area from the city’s core over time, however, most of the land in and near the city has been developed. This has taken its toll on the natural character of the area. It has been estimated that Cuyahoga County is now nearly 90% developed. Increased pressure for development of the few remaining natural areas has created the need for a more proactive approach to their preservation. At the same time, an opportunity has arisen, with the abandonment and underutilization of many previously developed places within the city, to restore previously degraded landscapes and features (such as waterfronts) and to incorporate greenspace into neighborhoods where it is sorely lacking.
  • Poor Green Infrastructure Maintenance: The American Forests organization estimates that tree cover in urban areas east of the Mississippi has declined by about 30% over the last 20 years, while the footprint of the urban areas has increased by 20%. This decline in tree cover negatively impacts air water quality. The tree and landscape cover that does exist on currently developed sites must be maintained; and trees that die must be replaced. The City’s Parks Department estimates that between 1,000 and 2,000 trees die annually in Cleveland and that 1,500 to 2,000 trees need to be planted just to maintain the current tree resource. The Parks Department’s Urban Forestry office maintains trees on City properties and right-of-way. American Forests suggests general tree canopy goals, for metropolitan areas east of the Mississippi, of 25% for urban residential zones and 15% for central business districts.

  • New Forms of Recreation Overlooked: A key to getting people to participate in recreation is providing them with the types of activity they desire. The City’s parks offer numerous recreation facilities such as ball fields, basketball and tennis courts, pools, playgrounds and recreation centers. There are many other types of recreation that have grown in popularity, however, that the City parks either do not provide facilities for or that are not easily accommodated. Skateboarding, mountain biking, rowing, dog runs, rock climbing and outdoor fitness courses are examples of the non-standard types of recreation facilities people want nowadays. Some of these might be provided through partnerships with other organizations or by nonprofit or user groups.


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