National Heritage Area (1)

The legislation extends a prior authorization sunset date for the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area for an additional 7 years.

Many programs have such sunset dates.

Here’s how it works for us. Our original authorizing legislation (1996) included both a sunset date and a funding cap. Its passage opened the opportunity to compete with other designated national heritage areas for federal funding on an annual basis.

For us, the original sunset date was federal fiscal year 2012; the funding cap was $10 million. Other considerations included an obligation to match any awarded funds with a minimum $1 local match for every federal dollar. We could not request more than $1 million in any one year. All spending was restricted to meet the mission/goals of the heritage area as annunciated in the legislation and expressed in a Management Plan.

Basically, the sunset date restricts federal spending. Programs are prohibited to seek federal funds past any sunset date. The funding cap was previously extended to $15 million. Since 2012, we have faced an annual challenge of having our elected Congressional Representatives and/or Senators include short extension language into legislation so that we could continue to seek portions of the federal funding still available within our extended cap.

There are other consequences which accompany “sunsetting.” Congress determined that any national heritage area that faced an imminent sunset date would require an independent evaluation to ensure that the federal investment was meeting the goals of the legislation, including the obligation of local match funding. This evaluation would include a recommendation for future National Park Service involvement. In addition, sunsetting heritage areas were required to close out any awarded funds within 1 year of their official sunset date. Prior to this policy, all federal funds were treated as “5 year money” – in other words, we had 5 years to spend the funds. This change in operations placed a strain on our grantees to close their projects.

As we continue to move forward in the build-out of the Ohio & Erie Canalway, we will face the next challenge – extending the funding cap. The good news for us is that we have undergone the independent evaluation and the results are all positive. We have met and exceeded our requirements.


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Towpath Trail Alignment (3)

Yes, there is a marked route from Downtown to the northern end of the Towpath Trail at Lower Harvard Road. The route utilizes the completed sections at Scranton Flats and Stage 2 as well as temporary on-road connections.

Riders can connect to the Towpath in the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation and take it to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and even further south in the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area.

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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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The northern terminus of the Ohio & Erie Canalway Towpath Trail will be at Canal Basin Park in the Downtown Cleveland’s Flats neighborhood. Canal Basin Park is at the site where the historic Ohio & Erie Canal met the Cuyahoga River. When completed, the Ohio & Erie Canalway Towpath Trail will be 101-miles- extending from Downtown Cleveland to New Philadelphia, Ohio.

The Towpath will connect to destinations such as Lake Erie through Towpath Connector trails such as the Cleveland Foundation Centennial Trail.

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Cleveland Bike Lanes (1)

The City of Cleveland has an online geographic information system (GIS) for their Bikeway Master Plan.

Users can search an interactive map for existing and future bike lanes here-

Additional information can be found on Cleveland City Planning’s Bikeway Master Plan site-

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Towpath Trail Funding (2)

The Towpath Trail Extension Project is primarily funded through the Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program. The CMAQ program “was implemented to support surface transportation projects and other related efforts that contribute air quality improvements and provide congestion relief.” The CMAQ funds are used for construction and right of way acquisition.

The CMAQ funds were awarded to the Towpath Trail Extension Project through the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), which provides transportation and environmental planning for greater Cleveland.

The Towpath Trail Extension Project has also received Federal funding from House/Senate Priority 1688/4639 and House Project No. 3058. These funds are used for preliminary and final engineering costs.

Federal funding requires local match. One way the Towpath Trail Extension Project fulfills this requirement is through competitive grant programs such as the Clean Ohio Green Space Conservation Program and the Clean Ohio Recreational Trails Fund. Grants such as these have very specific areas where the funds can be applied within the project.

Additional sources of grant funding include the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio & Erie Canalway Association, the State of Ohio Cultural Arts Facilities and the Cleveland Foundation. The project was also awarded $1 million in funds from a Federal judge in a FENOC settlement.

The Towpath Trail Extension Project also provides local match to Federal funds through a Steelyard Commons “TIF”. The State of Ohio’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program “is an economic development mechanism available to local governments in Ohio to finance public infrastructure improvements and, in certain circumstances, residential rehabilitation.” Thanks to the generosity of First Interstate, the developer of Steelyard Commons, 70% of non-school TIF funds are held in trust for development of the Towpath Trail.

Cuyahoga County is the Project Manager on the Towpath Trail Extension Project. The Cuyahoga County Department of Public Works is in charge of tracking project funds and contracts.

Canalway Partners is the chief fundraiser for the Towpath Trail. We take the lead in grant writing and community outreach. Canalway Partners does not pay staff wages or overhead through funds awarded to the Towpath Trail Extension Project.

Learn more about the Towpath Trail Extension Project

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Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) funds are Federal funds that were created to support transportation projects and related efforts that contribute air quality improvements and provide congestion relief. The Towpath Trail Extension project has been awarded CMAQ funds through the Northeast Ohio Area Coordinating Agency (NOACA.)

The Clean Air Act requires that, in areas experiencing air quality problems, transportation planning be consistent with air quality goals. The Environmental Protection Agency establishes air quality standards for each state known as National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS.)

To help Ohio become compliant with the NAAQS, the state receives about $60 million annually in CMAQ funding. This funding goes towards programs that reduce ozone, carbon monoxide and particulate matter.

The Towpath Trail Extension Project has received $27,550,000 in CMAQ funding.  $8.75M for Stage 1, $10.6M for Stage 3 and $8.2M for Stage 4.

The CMAQ program can pay up to 80% of total eligible project costs. The minimum local share is 20% and must be provided from local, state, or other non-federal sources.

The CMAQ program is jointly administered by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.

CMAQ Fact sheet-


Read more about CMAQ funding from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency-

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Towpath Planning (1)

The Towpath Trail & Greenway is identified in the following regional, county, watershed and community level plans and is consistent with their strategies and priorities.

State Plans:

  • Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan for Ohio (SCORP, 2013). The Report identifies the Towpath Trail (page 23) and asserts that former towpaths, like the trail running through the property, provide numerous opportunities for recreational users (page 42). This project addresses the ODNR, Division of State Parks’s priorities and strategies including land acquisition and conservation to protect Ohio’s natural, native landscapes.
  • Trails for Ohioans Plan (2005). ODNR, Division of State Parks, prepared a plan, which states that “the extension of the Towpath Trail into the Cuyahoga Valley and the Flats, the completion of the Lakefront Bikeway, and the continued expansion of the Cleveland Metroparks’ multi-use paths would establish the foundation for a truly comprehensive network of trails in Cuyahoga County (page 53).”


Regional Plans:

  • The Cuyahoga County Greenspace Plan & Greenprint. The Towpath Trail is recognized as a potential greenway corridor in the Greenprint and is described as the “central spine” of the regional trail network in the Greenspace Plan. The acquisition is within the recognized corridor. The project is consistent with the County’s goal to preserve a system of natural corridors, protect and restore critical natural areas, expand the County’s trail network, and create public awareness.(


  • The North Cuyahoga Concept Plan (1992), Linking the Corridor (1999) & Towpath Trail Extension Alignment & Design Study (2002). The Cuyahoga County Planning Commission published a series of studies that emphasized the Towpath Trail’s significance in regards to expanding the County’s trail network, environmental reclamation, and economic growth through sustainability.
  • A Route to Prosperity – The Ohio & Erie Canal Corridor Special Resource Study, National Park Service, 1993. This National Park Service study explored the feasibility of inclusion of a new regional area as a National Heritage Area.  It recommended that the greenway project pursue Congressional designation as a National Heritage Area. (
  • The Ohio & Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor Management Plan, Ohio & Erie Canal Association, 2000. Following the passage of federal legislation that conferred designation to the Ohio & Erie Canalway as America’s 7th National Heritage Area, a required Management Plan was executed. Spanning three years, the Plan was a product of 75 public meetings across the four-county area.
  • Ohio & Erie Canalway America’s Byway Management Plan Update, Ohio & Erie Canal Association, 2009. The Ohio & Erie Canalway America’s Byway designation was conferred to the Byway by the Federal Highway Administration in 2002.  The original application included a Management Plan.  It was updated in 2009 at the request of Ohio’s State Byway coordinator.  The Towpath Trail is featured within the multi-modal operation associated with the Byway.


City & Community Plans:

  • Connecting Cleveland: 2020 Citywide Plan. This City of Cleveland Planning Commission Plan states that the Towpath Trail provides safe and attractive connections between the City and the surrounding neighborhoods to a larger system of parks and open space. (Recreation & Open Space, page 5).

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