Cumberland vs CLE = carefree car-free

Submitted by lmcshane on Sun, 03/08/2015 - 13:21.

Winter 2015 has been an especially hard one.  I considered travel to FL, TX or even Puerto Rico for some sun, but was put off by having to travel by plane.  When the weather in familiar Cumberland, MD promised to break temperatures higher than 30 degrees, I chose train travel to the Queen City.

I brought along the book, Responsive City by Stephen Goldsmith and Susan Crawford.  As I near retirement, I am looking for a community that offers a restorative landscape, recreational amenties, great swimming, art, music and good eats.  Oddly enough, Cleveland offers all of the above, but suffers from poor leadership and a decidely unresponsive local government.  Snow removal this past winter 2014-2015 was a decidely CLE fail.  The book details Boston's snow removal overhaul to get a handle on delivery issues with this one critical service.

Goldsmith and Crawford give an overview of the efforts by governments in Boston, DC, New York and Chicago - to satisfy residents needs.  Social media and smart phone apps play into the experience with several efforts summarized in the book including:, Citizens Connect app (Boston) and other customer relationship management systems.  These cities moved towards this approach starting in 2008 and the CRM approach is used by hospitality services like Marriott, who built their Fairfield Inn at Cumberland in 2009.

I have watched the parallel progression of development in  Cleveland versus the Frostburg-Cumberland area, since my mom lived and worked at Frostburg State University for over 20 years.  She now lives in Texas, so I stayed at the Marriott Fairfield.

My train trip on Amtrak (third time travelling this route) was the first time it actually departed and arrived close to scheduled time.  I will be posting photos of the beautiful snow-covered valley on the ride to Cumberland. 

I had breakfast  and coffee at the Queen City Creamery and then checked in (early) to my hotel.  The hotel location is ideal since it is within walking distance of Amtrak and the hotel.  Visitors to the Fairfield can step out the door and be on the 335 mile Great Allegheny Passage and Towpath that connects Washington DC to Pittsburgh at Cumberland.

Can a trail system that connects people, who walk and bike, help a region rebound, and build a new economy? It is instructive to visit CLE and CUM and to compare. Obviously, there is a great parallel between the Great Allegheny Passage and the 110 mile Ohio and Erie Canal towpath project; while both projects have been slow to develop, both are also growing exponentially in popularity.

In Cleveland, I have yet to see a major hospitality hotel build and market their rooms to park and trail users, but Cumberland has already achieved this milestone with the Marriott Fairfield Inn.  Bed and breakfast options do exist for trail users in CLE - but they are not immediate to the trail.  In Cumberland, on my first day here, I walked up to the Narrows and then was able to soak in the hotel whirpool and enjoy the cool temperature of the pool that still allows lap swimming. See:

For my first evening (Saturday - btw I typed first half of this from Fairfield and I am working at the Allegany Library on Washington St. today) - I was able to enjoy dinner at Ristorante Ottaviani - with pretty much all of my excursion stops planned out from  The Fairfield Inn also provides a WiFi kiosk that allows visitors to access the site - and print out a slip w/phone etc.  Every travel accomodation can be synched with a smart phone.  As luck would have it - I sat at the bar next to Cumberland-Frostburg artist Dennis Sherald - I will post photos of his artwork soon.   We had a nice conversation about the pros and cons of life as an artist working at a university as an adjunct professor (several of my family members fall into this category).

The next morning, I woke up - enjoyed the complimentary breakfast in the commons area of the hotel and observed a veritable rainbow of families at the hotel - Americans ranging in ethnicity from East Indian, European, African, and Asia - all with young kids in tow. Many folks were outfitted for a jog - and during the winter months - this is obviously still a heavy use for the GAP and towpath crowd.  I set out south on the towpath and was rewarded with a BEAUTIFUL morning - hiking along the trail with a vista that includes trains, towpath, the Potomac River and majestic mountains.  It was really lovely.  I came out of the valley and hiked back through the city along LaFayette and Virginia Ave.  I will post those photos, too.  I attended an achingly charming free recital and arts event at the Gilchrist Gallery and then went back to swim and read and relax for the better part of the day. For my second night, I enjoyed dinner at a bar near the canal - Uncle Jack's Pizzeria.

I swam again and retired early to awaken on my third day - Monday.  It helps to see Cumberland during the weekend and during the work week.  The downtown retail and businesses are NOT doing well - and this is where I can say CLE is doing better, especially by pairing restaurants and culture.   I heard from Tim - who mans the National Park station (it operates 7 days a week) - that the new mayor of Cumberland, Brian Grimm, is young and responsive to conversation - so I stopped in, but he was not there today.  I left material about the potential to relocate Marriott headquarters to Cumberland. 

I walked around the central business district and took photos of some of the historic attractions on Baltimore St. and stopped into a the gallery and antique store housed at 55 Baltimore St. 


I bought artwork of Meg Romero  (check out her website and option to mail these adorable small works) and chatted with the store keeper Dan Tanasescu, a Romanian refugee who first lived in Baltimore and relocated to Cumberland. We commisserated about crime and drugs CLE vs. CUM and then discussed the art market (he trained as an engineer and his daughter works for art auction houses in NYC).  I stopped next door at Mark and Jennies' Cafe Mark - had great soup and sandwich ( I miss the old location of the cafe- formerly in corner store front) and, again, had good fortune to meet commercial real estate maven and arts and culture supporter Tracy Smyth - and, on the spur of the moment, she decided to show me one of her properties that she has converted to a living space.  Cumberland is definitely lucky to have someone like Tracy marketing their region to companies and businesses - and in many ways - she is like Alenka Banco in Cleveland - one woman, working her butt off to make the world more attractive and liveable.  We instantly hit it off - and no surprise to me - she values libraries (we talked about how communities connect) - and her family has contributed to the success of the Allegany Library - where I am typing this up - by contributing to the Children's Department and funding their storytime area there to honor her late father.

I will be writing more - and expanding this blog post with photos - so check back.  Time to catch a train.

( categories: )

Cumberland 1 CLE 0 -Family vacations

We COULD and should have similar program for Ohio and Erie Canal and Canalway - Cumberland-Frostburg is already on -board:

 The Sojourn celebrates open trails but also highlights gaps in what could be longer regional systems. It does this by uniting, for several days at least, separate trails into one network and therefore demonstrating the benefits of completing unfinished trail segments and drawing attention to the specific hurdles that need to be overcome.

By participating in the Rail-Trail Sojourn, you make a concrete and lasting impact as a trail advocate, and a supporter of building powerful rail-trail networks.

Marriott Starwood and trails in CLE

When I visited Cumberland, MD in March 2015 - I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott.


 Cleveland has a Courtyard Marriott in University Circle and there is now a Courtyard Marriott in downtown Akron (at trailhead to the Towpath Trail).  


I had an interesting conversation with an employee at the Courtyard Marriott in Cumberland - she said that the hotel was going to expand.   And, she was correct:

What Marriott-Starwood deal means to hotel guests

The demographic Cumberland saw at their location was similar to a trend being seen worldwide.  Folks want to travel for EXERCISE.  The location of the Cumberland Marriott was ideal for runners and cyclists who wanted the proximity to the Great Allegheny Passage. 

Marriott, by paying $12.2 billion for Starwood, reaps brands considered more trendy and youthful than its own.


Marriott is also looking to relocate their headquarters in 2016.  What does this mean for Cleveland?  

If we had savvy and intelligent folks at the City of Cleveland - it would mean they would make an attempt to woo Marriott to Cleveland.  Personally, I hope that Marriott relocates to Cumberland, MD.  I will be watching.  But, in case Marriott, is looking here - consider the potential trails available to hotel guests if we actually thought about their experience here.

We need to develop cultural hubs for tourism and opportunities for jogging, cycling and walking tours -with option to fall back on transit during inclement weather:

University Circle -Cultural Gardens - Glenville in addition to the many amenities "In The Circle," namely, major draws the Cleveland Art Museum and Cleveland Orchestra- visitors and residents can avail themselves to the beautiful winding trail through the Cleveland Cultural Gardens to the Cleveland Lakefront.  If Superior is designated a major cycle thoroughfare - it is easily accessible from the Cultural Gardens to downtown. 

Detroit Shoreway-Ohio City - in addition to the Gordon Square-Battery Park attractions and the Westside Market, if the City greenlighted and pushed for the Redline Greenway - visitors and residents could avail themselves to an all-season intermodal trail that connects a scenic downtown overlook with West 65th to the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood and points south and west via designated bike paths, including the Metroparks Cleveland Lakefront Park, Metroparks Brookside Park, Metroparks Zoo and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  

Tremont-Old Brooklyn Centre - Slavic Village - these three neighborhoods are connected via the Old Harvard Towpath Trailhead, Harvard-Denison and the Flats.  Denison has dedicated bike lanes that connect to Harvard and east side via Metroparks Washington Park to Shrine of Stanislaus, the Polish Cultural Center and Broadway Ave. to all points south.  On the west side - the Denison bike lanes connect to Scranton Ave - taking cyclists downtown and to Tremont.  Also the Denison bike lanes take cyclists to all points west including Metroparks Zoo, Brookside Park and historic destinations further west along Lorain Ave. like the Variety Theater.

Downtown- Asiatown -St Clair Superior- Midtown - with addition of a real bike sharing program - UH Bikes - downtown visitors and residents can pick up a red bike and go! On weekends - Superior and St. Clair are almost devoid of cars.  Family attractions include Tink Holl, Morgan Paper Conservancy, downtown arcades, the historic Main Library, Tower City and more.  In the summer - Flats and Rock Hall are obvious destinations.