Solon is developing as a great place to live, work, play | Guest columns

Summer in Solon is packed with events, activities and entertainment for all ages. Our leisure and art center camps are in full swing and many young people are enjoying their school break. The Grantwood Golf Course continues to be the course of choice for many golf enthusiasts. Tennis and pickleball fans continue to fill our morning, noon and evening courts in our community park.

Our recently striped pickleball courts (four in total) have really made a difference in the quality of the game. Our summer recreational sports programs are busy and active for so many. All our pools are open, including Arthur Road (municipal pool) and the Solon Community Center indoor and outdoor pools. The Babes of Solon continue to grow and expand their rosters with spirited softball games all summer long. The park’s playground, pavilion and volleyball courts continue to be enjoyed by all.

The summer kicked off with a movie in the park featuring the screening of “Encanto”. We will have a second film in the park on August 12. We celebrated Juneteenth with a fabulous concert in the park with the band Carlos Jones. Our Farmer’s Market started in June at Bicentennial Park. We will have six farmers markets throughout the summer showcasing local food, crafts and other vendors.

The new and improved Solon Home Days will start on the weekend of July 29 to July 31. We will have music, entertainment, arts and crafts, children’s activities and games, food trucks, a beer garden and of course, the parade. It will be an awesome weekend in the park. We will once again be partnering with Chagrin Arts to host Shakespeare in the Park on August 6-7, and August 13-14. Our Pop Up in the Park arts and crafts festival will take place on August 27th. Plus, our awesome Fall Festival will be on October 8, our Holiday Lighting will be on November 23, and we’ll wrap up the year with our Hometown Holiday Market on December 10 at the Community Center.

This year, we are in the process of carrying out two separate master plans for our future. We have engaged with Brandstatter Carroll to facilitate a master plan for our community park. Through surveys, community engagement and various focus groups throughout the summer and fall, we will examine the optimization of our community park assets and seek the best uses of the park. This could include a new playground, arts and culture venue, updated food and concessions, modern restrooms, parking lot repairs, pickleball stadium, increased turf on ball diamonds.

We will also begin planning for our Bicentennial Park at the Art Center and the future use of Timberlake Park. Additionally, we worked with city architecture to provide leadership and guidance on our city master plan. We have an excellent group of citizens who bring their expertise to help with this plan. We will look at everything to modernize our code and zoning to provide a more business-friendly and less bureaucratic approach to city planning. We will also focus our attention on people, places and walkability and reduce attention on cars and traffic.

Business development, job growth, and attraction continue to place Solon far ahead of other Northeast Ohio communities. Our industrial and manufacturing sector continues to thrive and grow. Companies such as Hana Technologies and Kichler Lighting have recently moved to Solon and will provide high quality innovation and technology in the future. Our flagship companies such as Nestlé, Swagelok and many more continue to outperform their competitors and provide exceptional employment opportunities for so many people in our region.

Recently we held another job fair in partnership with the Solon Chamber of Commerce. Over 70 companies were represented and job seekers filled our park with hope and anticipation of endless opportunities. We continue to work with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to expand Route 41 bus service to connect workers to jobs. This led to the expansion of bus service on SOM Center Road and the expansion of four bus shelters in the industrial and commercial area to better meet workforce needs. We continue to work with RTA, Tri-C, our business community, and the Northeast Ohio Regional Coordinating Agency with the Solon Mobility Task Force to increase multi-model transportation to serve and to connect our workforce to our employment hub.

Our APA award-winning Solon Connects initiative has moved from recommendation to implementation. Recently, the City of Solon partnered with Cleveland Metroparks to build the long-awaited Solon-Chagrin Falls Trail. This new trail will run from SOM Center Road in Solon to the Greenville Inn in Chagrin Falls. It will take you along the scenic Chagrin Valley on the Chagrin River with one of the most beautiful trails to discover.

Additionally, the city is negotiating with Norfolk-Southern to purchase the vacant rail line that begins at Nestle and runs through Solon across the state of Ohio east to the Mahoning Valley. This incredible trail then crosses the state of Pennsylvania. This trail is in partnership with Portage County Parks, City of Aurora, Geauga Parks and the Township of Bainbridge. Once the two trails are built, the goal will be to connect them in our downtown core to Bicentenaire Park.

Thanks to this connectivity, we will truly be a regional and national destination for trail enthusiasts from here and elsewhere. Additionally, we have placed strategic bike racks in public and commercial locations to promote the ability to ride a bike in the city. In the central commercial area, we will widen the sidewalks by 5 to 10 feet to provide better access for pedestrians and cyclists. It will also allow for multimodal transportation to our existing local businesses. In addition, all of our upcoming road construction projects will once again include sidewalks, multi-use lanes and cycle lanes to meet the needs of people and their safety, not just cars and traffic.

For nearly two years, Solon has been focused on our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging initiative. This was accomplished with an internal group of employees as well as a group of dedicated citizens to lead our community relations committee. This work with the help of the Equius Group will enable us to deliver both an internal workforce survey on the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging initiative, as well as a survey on community-wide attitudes with an action plan for the future.

We are so proud at Solon to welcome all races, faiths, cultures and nationalities. Our neighborhoods, our top-ranked schools, our 900 companies are distinguished by this growing diversity. Instead of just passively accepting it as we move forward, we will be very intentional in embracing and celebrating our greatest strength as a community.

Eddy Kraus is Mayor of Solon.

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