September 18, 2017 – Today, EA staffers toured some areas of development along the famous Ohio & Erie Canalway with Fran DiDonato, Assistant Director of Canalway Partners. First, the Towpath Trail is just one part of the Canalway, but most locals refer to the trails that run through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and head north to their ultimate terminus on Lake Erie (to come) as The Towpath Trail. Not exactly accurate, but you can’t fight local vernacular! This video does a great job of sharing big picture.
The mission of Fran’s organization is “to create a park system that follows the route of the historic Ohio Canal from Cleveland through Zoar to Dover/New Philadelphia by promoting historic preservation and interpretation, expanded recreational opportunities and sensitive economic developments.” For those of you new to Northeast Ohio, the Canalway is an iconic highlight in our area that includes…
- The Towpath Trail: An amazing scenic trail that runs for 85 miles through the heart of the Canalway.
- America’s Byway: A connection of scenic routes that travel along the Canalway’s historic path.
- Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad: One of the oldest, longest, and most beautiful excursion railways known for several fun events like “Ales on Rails” and “The Polar Express.”
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park: One of the country’s most visited national parks.
If you are outdoorsy . . . Pretty much all outdoor activities can be found along the Canalway. Birding, biking, hiking, questing, running, horseback riding, and winter activities are all available. You can also enjoy a canal boat ride or hop on a train and ride the scenic rail. Fun fact . . . if you get tired of biking, you can always hop on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad with your bike!
If you love history…the Canalway has 45 historic districts with 385 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, a National Natural Landmark, Presidential and First Ladies’ museums, and one of the largest theater restorations in the country.
The Ohio & Erie Canalway is literally a national treasure! It was designated by Congress in 1996 as a National Heritage Area “to help preserve and celebrate the rails, trails, landscapes, towns and sites that grew up along the first 110 miles of the canal that helped Ohio and our nation grow.” Fran and her team manage the development of the Ohio & Erie Canal Heritage Area.
They are also working to increase public awareness of this wonderful resource through partnerships, education, and events like RiverSweep and the Towpath Trilogy. This Canalway is a destination for both locals and tourists…Canalway Partners is spreading the word!
Canalway Partners are working on projects that will link the Canalway’s natural, historical, and cultural assets. Towpath Connector Trails are a key part of this vision. In Cleveland, the development of Mill Creek, West Creek, Big Creek, Red Line Greenway, Lake Link, Walworth Run/Train Avenue, Treadway Ravine, Morgana Run, and the Slavic Village Downtown Trail will create further access and opportunity to enjoy the Ohio & Erie Canalway’s offerings.
Canalway Partners has several projects and Towpath Trail projects underway. They are working with the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and the Cleveland Metroparks in a joint project agreement to complete the various stages of work from fundraising to construction to day-to-day maintenance.
For our tour, Fran focused on the plans for Canal Basin Park and the progress of Stage 3 of the Towpath Trail Projects.
Canal Basin Park will be a gathering place and hub at the Northern end of the Towpath. It is where the history of the canal began. At this site, the hand-dug canal poured into the Cuyahoga River, and Northeast Ohio’s agricultural items were exported and manufactured products were imported. After its completion, the park will be an educational spot and a site for concerts, fairs, etc. It will be Cleveland’s gateway to all that the Canalway has to offer…a major starting point for our region’s tourists as well.
After our visit to the site of the future park, we moved on to Stage 3 of the connector trails, which will run almost two miles from Steelyard Commons to Literary Avenue. It will provide a link between the Tremont neighborhood, the retail center, and the outdoor recreation spaces available at Clark Fields. The trail extension will provide a needed greenspace buffer between Tremont and the industrial areas. But, don’t worry! The area’s industrial heritage will be honored through observation decks
and public art. This phase will also include three wetlands and bioswales, which will help to reduce run off pollution to the Cuyahoga River. Stage 3 is schedule for completion in 2020.
We are excited for the completion of these two projects and can’t wait until it’s time to tour the next stages!
A few interesting links…
- Ohio & Erie Canalway Map
- Canal Basin Park: 20 acres of urban green space in the heart of the Flats
- Ceremonial groundbreaking launches Stage 3 of Towpath
Trail in Cleveland
- Stage 3 of the Towpath Trail in Cleveland will mix nature, industry and great views
- ODOT’s new Towpath Trail segment below Inner Belt bridges heals urban scar
- Towpath Trail ‘Stage 3’ Construction Progress
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