Yes. And No.. The goal of the Towpath Trail is to follow the historic alignment whenever possible and practical. There are some situations that require modifying its route to provide a safe visitor experience.
In Summit County, the Towpath veers from the original alignment as it exits the Cuyahoga Valley National Park heading south towards Akron. The historic alignment in this section currently hosts a large sewer that feeds their treatment plant. Given the cost considerations and other logistic hurdles, the practical option threaded a course through the treatment facility and along the Cuyahoga River. Finding a way through downtown Akron provided another challenge; the Towpath Trail is not absolutely faithful to its history here, but provides a practical solution that opens a direct interface with their downtown. In Barberton, parts of the historic canal had been compromised; the solution there uses an easement on PPG property along the Tuscarawas River. To its credit, the floating Towpath through Summit Lake is an outstanding example of replicating that historic experience.
In Stark County, the historic canal route has been used for the building of Route 21 in the Massillon area. Therefore, the Towpath Trail used the nearby levee. In the same area, Stark Parks was unable to convince Norfolk Southern Railroad to allow for a crossing of an active track; therefore, the Towpath Trail diverts from the levee onto neighborhood streets (Fourth and Fifth) for a short distance into Oak Knoll Park to Walnut Road onto its bridge to connect to the original Towpath alignment.
In Tuscarawas County, I-77 was built atop a portion of the historic alignment in Bolivar. Today, the Towpath Trail uses an enhanced sidewalk treatment along Park Avenue to connect the Towpath from Fort Laurens through Bolivar. It travels along the designated America’s Byway for a short stint, crossing Rt. 212 onto Canal Street,Bolivar’s historic main street. Planning to connect the Towpath Trail into New Philadelphia continues. As the Towpath will not be able to follow the historic footprint; it will seek a route along the Tuscarawas River.
In Cuyahoga County, the Towpath’s original alignment north of Lower Harvard Avenue was located on the east side of the river. This area has been monopolized with active industrial uses since the 1900s. The ArcelorMittal Steel Mill occupies most of the eastern river valley between Harvard and Dille Road. Another active user in the area is Norfolk Southern. Following the historic alignment in this section would lead users to an area alongside a blast furnace where hot molten ore is dumped into submarine cars. The safety factors cannot be underestimated. The practical remedy moved the Towpath to the west side of the river valley.
So, for practical reasons, the Towpath Trail is unable to follow the pure historic routing between Cleveland and New Philadelphia. It is noteworthy that the current trail is aligned along the two major rivers that fed the water supply of the canal.
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