Happy trails: Final stage of Towpath Trail extension to get underway in July

A joint effort to connect 101 miles of biking and hiking paths from New Philadelphia to Cleveland's Lake Erie shoreline via the Towpath Trail Extension Project is preparing to cross the finish line. A groundbreaking ceremony celebrated the final stage of the Towpath Trail project last Saturday, June 22, at Settlers Landing on the East Bank of the Flats.

Towpath Trail Groundbreaking at Settlers LandingThis 1.5-mile stretch of trail—part of the network of asphalt paths and greenways that will come to a head at Canal Basin Park—is doubly significant. Not only does it mark the final stretch of this ongoing project that began in 2014 and is scheduled for completion in 2020, but it also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River fire with a meandering landscape of both natural and industrial beauty that pays homage to how far the city has come.

“I’m a guy who believes that [our] identity is shaped by the [Cuyahoga] River,” says Tim Donovan, executive director of Canalway Partners, one of the four organizations responsible for the Towpath Trail Extension (including the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and Cleveland Metroparks). “This is a celebrated story. The river caught on fire, but there were positive consequences from it—like the addition of the Towpath Trail Greenway.”

The $8.95 million project, being completed by Independence Excavating, picks up where Stage 3 leaves off at Literary Avenue in Tremont. From Literary, the trail travels up University Avenue, ties into the Scranton Flats trail at Sokolowski’s University Inn and the Innerbelt Overlook (a portion of the trail completed by ODOT as part of its Innerbelt Project), then travels onto Carter Road and over to Canal Basin Park.


Tim Donovan, executive director of Canalway PartnersDonovan says points of interest along this segment include the bridge over Literary Avenue, Camp Cleveland Interpretive Node (at W. 7th and W. 11th), the plaza area by Sherwin-Williams, and a separate path by the Carter Road lift bridge.

Lighting is planned along this entire segment of the trail, including the existing Scranton Flats section that was completed ahead of this phase.

With construction on the Towpath Trail having started around 1990, this last leg marks a long journey of transforming hundreds of acres of industrial land into usable greenspace. “This is it for the Towpath Trail,” says Donovan.

Actual construction on the last segment is scheduled for Monday, July 2, and should be completed within two years.

Donovan says Canalway Partners chose June 22 for the groundbreaking to align with the #Cuyahoga50 festivities. “
In a way, we are flipping the page—following a new storyline where the Cuyahoga River offers a new identity for the city and the region,” he says.

Superior Ave Pump StationThe event was BYOS, aka "Bring Your Own Shovel." Attendees included Mayor Frank Jackson, Cuyahoga County Administrator Armond Budish, NOACA executive director Grace Gallucci, and Cleveland Metroparks commissioner Debra Berry.

The day also celebrated the new Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Pump Station at Settlers Landing. “It’s going to be a dramatic improvement for water quality,” says Donovan. “It will send 500,000 gallons of discharge for treatment each year.”

With the Towpath Trail project rounding the bend, WDonovan says they will now shift focus to developing the long-discussed Canal Basin Park. “Right now, it’s Canal Basin Parking Lot, and it’s painfully obvious when you roll to the end of the trail,” he says. “We believe Canal Basin Park should orient people to the trail and the different connectors—it’s the head of the octopus.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.