Cuyahoga Valley Initiative:
Planning for sustainability

The Cuyahoga County Planning Commission is engaged in an innovative, multi-year process to reinvent the Cuyahoga River valley from a zone dominated by industrial interests to an area with shared recreational, natural, and forward-looking commercial assets. The following summary of the Cuyahoga Valley Initiative was produced by the planning commission in April 2003. Also, visit the Cuyahoga Valley Initiative Web site.

The Cuyahoga Valley Initiative seeks to influence development patterns, construction practices and industrial processes for the next generation. Today, the valley, and indeed the whole county, is faced with questions of how to foster economic growth and attract new investment while creating a high quality of life for residents and workers. The core economy struggles to be globally competitive while at the same time the county is not yet hit a critical mass of emerging economy businesses. Just as our economic foundation began in the Valley, so too can our renewal.

In order to create a sustainable future for the valley, the initiative will focus on the needs of the Cuyahoga River and rely on an understanding of the valley's, economic, social and ecological systems. The goals of the project are to demonstrate sustainabilityboth the project's process and outcomesand to build local capacity. The initiative will define a vision for the valley and offer tools to implement this vision. These tools, in the form of model codes, design guidelines, and sustainable practices are intended to foster day-to-day improvements to create lasting change in the character and function of the Valley. These tools of renewal will be based on ecological design principles, the elevation of which we propose as capable of providing a foundation on which the valley can achieve economic, environmental and social success.

The vision for the Cuyahoga Valley will not be realized based on the production of a report or the actions of a single planning entity. This requires going beyond the traditional planning processes that focus on achieving a single outcome through government intervention. Instead, it will require the involvement of individual municipalities, regional groups, local residents and businesses in what may be previously unknown collaborations. An iterative process, integrating multiple disciplines into a holistic/systems approach will be used. Project work and community involvement will be centered around six related issues, or "idea packages," each providing a unique perspective on the valley.

Working River

Once a symbol of industrial strength and the consequences of environmental degradation, the Cuyahoga River today promises a future where quality of life and healthy natural systems are realized as integral components of industrial vitality.

Healthy Valley

Create an ecology to restore and heal the natural systems, integrate with the built systems, and sustain the distinct land forms of the Valley.

Business Plan

Imagine new ways to conduct business through optimizing existing industries, introduction of new product families, and development of whole new industries to restore the Cuyahoga Valley.


Make the Cuyahoga River Valley the focal point of recreation and leisure activities for both residents and visitors.


A new design paradigm forged from the valley's legacy of inventiveness, inherent ability to inspire artistic expression and an immense need for regeneration.

Community Capacity

The "Community capacity idea package" seeks to release the tremendous potential throughout the Cuyahoga Valley by outlining how every community can combine its diverse assets and talents with global best practices in such a way that increases individual and community wealth, encourages the development of existing and new businesses, and brings about environmental health.

Cuyahoga Valley Facts:

Study Area: 26,000 acres
Population of Study Area: 20,000
Communities in the Study Area: 11
Population within 1.5 miles of study area: 206,000
Cuyahoga County Population: 1.3 million

Length of Cuyahoga Valley from Lake Erie to southern
Cuyahoga County Line: 17 miles

Valley Designations:

National Heritage River
National Scenic Byway
National Heritage CorridorOhio & Erie Canal Corridor
Cuyahoga River, Area of ConcernCuyahoga Remedial Action Plan
National ParkCuyahoga Valley National Park

Prevailing Businesses:

Steel, Gravel and Bulk Storage, Asphalt, Chemical Processing, Industrial Manufacturing, Shipping Goods and Services, Salt Mining


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EcoCity Cleveland
3500 Lorain Avenue, Suite 301, Cleveland OH 44113
Cuyahoga Bioregion
(216) 961-5020
Copyright 2002-2003



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The following position papers and research conducted by Cuyahoga County Planning Commission for the Valley Initiative are dowloadable PDF files:

Just as our economic foundation began in the Valley, so too can our renewal.



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