Over 150 people came out to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church on November 6th to meet with representatives from the Towpath Trail Management Committee and give feedback on the future plans for the Towpath Trail in Cleveland.
The Towpath Trail Extension Project will connect Downtown Cleveland to the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, an off-road pedestrian and cycling trail and greenway running through the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area.
The Towpath Trail Management Committee consists of Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Metroparks and Canalway Partners. The agencies are joined together in a four-party project development agreement that outlines the role of each organization. Cuyahoga County is the project manager and steward of funds, the City of Cleveland is the property owner responsible for capital improvements, Cleveland Metroparks provides day-to-day maintenance and security, and Canalway Partners leads outreach and fundraising.
The five-mile Towpath Trail Extension Project is separated into four stages. The $57 million project utilizes Federal Highway Funds and is subject to reviews by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT.) The Extension Project must provide local match dollars for Federal funds, and continues to compete for grants to close any funding gaps.
Stage 4 should be especially interesting to Tremont residents. This stage of the Towpath will run from Literary Ave. to the future Canal Basin Park in the Flats.
Heading west, the Towpath will cross over Literary Ave. on a bridge. This bridge will serve to keep trail users off of the busy Literary Ave. while negotiating the steep elevation changes of University Rd. with a much-friendlier 5% grade.
The Towpath will transform University Ave. into a pedestrian and cyclist corridor, adding green space and overlook areas featuring dramatic views of Downtown. University Ave. will have restricted vehicular access, open for emergency and city services. Metroparks rangers will monitor the trail to provide security.
The Towpath heads downhill near Sokolowski’s University Inn on land being sculpted by the Innerbelt Project. This area is changing as ODOT is building a pocket park and two 50-space parking lots as part of the Inner Belt Bridge project. The Trail will head north, going through the already completed 0.8-mile section at Scranton Flats, which features an observation pier, native plantings and fish habitats. The Towpath Trail Management Team strives to create a consistent user experience and the interpretive panels, benches and fixtures used in Scranton Flats are consistent with the design standards created for the Towpath Extension Project.
The Trail heads west on Carter Rd. on the north side of the street. It will cross the Carter Rd. Bridge, the widest bridge in the Flats, and spiral underneath Columbus Rd. into the future Canal Basin Park. Canal Basin Park is a concurrent City of Cleveland project to convert underutilized land in the Flats into a regional park that will serve as a connective hub, visitor center and recreation area celebrating the legacy of the Ohio & Erie Canal.
Also presented was Stage 1 of the Towpath Trail Extension. This stage will run from the current northern end of the Towpath Trail in the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation at Harvard Rd. to Steelyard Commons. This 0.75 mile stage is the most difficult in the Towpath Trial Extension Project, as the path must cross the Cuyahoga River and navigate difficult terrain and industry.
Stage 1 planning has deliberately avoided former Harshaw property in its alignment. Unfortunately, the area of contamination spread beyond the property lines, forcing revisions to the Towpath routing. These studies have produced the current preferred trail alignment.
Stage 1 of the Towpath Trail will cross Harvard Rd. at street level, run through a piece of ArcelorMittal’s property and cross the Cuyahoga River via a single-span bridge. On the west side of the river, an elevated structure underneath the Harvard Denison Bridge will take trail users over train tracks and active industry and head north to Steelyard Commons.
Stage 4 of the Towpath Trail Extension is scheduled to begin construction in mid-2017 with completion scheduled for late-2018. Stage 1 will be the final stage to be completed, with construction scheduled to start mid-2018 and finish in late-2019.
Currently 85 miles of the 110-mile Towpath Trail are complete.