Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Report: Mill Creek trail could create 445 jobs, $52 million economic impact

A fully-completed Mill Creek Greenway Trail could create at least 445 jobs and create a more than $52 million economic impact, according to a new report by the Applied Economics Research Institute (AERI) at the University of Cincinnati.

The trail also would provide at least an additional $1.86 million in local tax revenue, said AERI director Dr. Benjamin Passty.

According to the report, the analysis "was carried out assuming that all initial investment, including the actual construction activities, purchase of necessary materials, and hiring of labor occur locally within the predefined study region, the eight principal counties of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Statistical Area".

"Should there be a reason to assume that part of the initial investment would leave the region, for instance by hiring non-regional labor, the estimated economic impacts would be accordingly smaller," the report said.

The report said that initial investment in the project would aid the specialized design services, architectural and engineering services, building materials and garden supplies, miscellaneous wood product manufacturing, other new construction, logging, and forestry support sectors.

Community benefits

Mill Creek Restoration Project (MCRP) executive director Robin Corathers said that the project would benefit some of the lowest-income communities in the region.

Additionally, Corathers said that real estate values along the trail are expected to rise, although that was outside of the scope of the study.

"In the context of local job losses, budget deficits and the economic recession, this is great news," she said. "This latest study reinforces the wisdom of public and private investments – and particularly the use of Federal Stimulus Funds – in developing the Mill Creek Greenway Trail. We know that major economic dividends and multiple social and environmental benefits will accrue."

Costly, but serves many purposes

The 13.5-mile trail, beginning at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds in Carthage and stretching through St. Bernard, Elmwood Place, and eventually to Cincinnati Riverfront Park, would cost about $24 million to complete, according to preliminary engineering estimates by M-E Companies.

Some of this estimated cost includes line items for environmental assessments and brownfield cleanup along the industrial corridor.

The multi-purpose trail will offer opportunities for bike commuting, recreation and outdoor exercise, and environmental education and training and will connect to the existing street network, crosswalks, bike lanes, and bus stops.

"Connectivity is key," Corathers said. "The trail will connect business districts, residential areas, park and recreational facilities, schools, and neighborhoods and communities together."

But it also serves the environment by restoring the Mill Creek's water quality, managing stormwater runoff, and restoring the corridor's habitat and natural resources.

Green technologies will be incorporated along the trail and at its trail heads.

J.K. Meurer Corporation has already begun construction on the 0.6-mile first phase, connecting Salway Park to the intersection of the William P. Dooley Bypass and Ludlow Avenue.

This phase leveraged funding from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the City of Cincinnati's Mill Creek Greenway Trail Program; Cognis Corporation helped MCRP obtain a $175,000 grant from the Clean Ohio Trail Fund.

MCRP is working with local governments to secure funding through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 to underwrite 80 percent of the future work and is seeking state and local sources to obtain the remaining matching funds.

Project seeking votes, $20,000

Also, you have until September 18 to vote for Laughing Brook in the Cincinnati Innovates contest.

Part of the Mill Creek Greenway Program, Laughing Brook is a man-made wetland and sustainable design model featuring public art along the Mill Creek at Salway Park.

The wetland was designed to cleanse stormwater runoff from the park's ball fields and parking lot.

If it wins, the Mill Creek Restoration Project could receive a $20,000 prize.

Voting is limited to one vote per person per day.