Stage One of the Towpath Trail extension project—an effort to connect 100 miles of biking and hiking paths from New Philadelphia to the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland—is scheduled to get underway next week, and the public is invited to attend a ceremonial groundbreaking on Monday, July 30, at Steelyard Commons.
Stage One connects the Towpath Trail’s Harvard Road trailhead north to the already completed Stage Two section, which runs along the border of Steelyard Commons.
“We’re going to have an off-road connection that is safe and a great visitor experience,” says Canalway Partners executive director Tim Donovan. “It’s integrated with industry and the River Valley in Cleveland.”
Despite being only 0.7 miles long, Donovan calls Stage One perhaps the most difficult phase to complete—due to a landscape covered by railroad tracks, changing elevations, and even an area where uranium was cooked to build the atom bomb. The drip lines from the former Harshaw Chemical Company are just one of the many roadblocks.
“Every time we thought we had a solution, something came up,” he says. “In the end, we went through 12 iterations to solve the challenge of where it ends at Harvard Road. So, we’re celebrating the fact that we’re building one of the most challenging stretches of the trail.”
Donovan says he often thinks of the Rolling Stones song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” when thinking about this tiny stretch of the Towpath Trail, quickly adding the next link in the song: “You get what you need.”
The section of path runs along publicly-owned land rights-of-way and holds the potential for business development in the same way the Towpath gave an economic boost to businesses in Peninsula near Cuyahoga Valley National Park. “There are lots of opportunities for businesses down along Harvard and Jennings,” Donovan says. “We have displaced no buildings, and we have not bought any property.”
Funding for the $5 million Stage One project comes from NOACA CMAQ (Congestion, Mitigation, and Air Quality) funds and the City of Cleveland TIF (Tax Increment Financing) funds. Great Lakes Construction is the general contractor on this stage of the project. Canalway Partners is the chief fundraising organization for the Towpath Trail in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.
First Interstate Properties funded Stage Two, the first mile of the extension project, in 2007 when it developed Steelyard Commons. Construction is currently underway on the 1.9-mile stretch between Steelyard Commons and Literary Avenue in Tremont that makes up Stage Three, expected to be completed later this year. Construction on Stage Four—1.9 miles between Literary Avenue and Canal Basin Park in the Flats—is slated to begin next year. The entire project is due to be completed in 2020.
The groundbreaking ceremony begins at 1 p.m. on Monday, July 30. in Steelyard Commons. The site can be accessed near the freeway ramp/Jennings Road.
Monday’s event is a B.Y.O.S.—Bring Your Own Shovel—celebration. “In a way, this is a grassroots movement that created this trail,” says Donovan, adding that the BYOS has become a tradition. “So, people should bring their shovels.”