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Towpath trail inches forward
Project could bring new life to Flats

Kabir Bhatia
One view that would greet cyclists along the newly acquired piece of the Towpath Trail
Courtesy of K. Bhatia
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In The Region:

The final link in a hiking and biking trail from Cuyahoga to Tuscarawas County is being forged with the purchase of 11 acres of land along the Cuyahoga River for the Towpath Trail.

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The land, under the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, comprises the final 6 miles of a trail that follows the Ohio Canal all the way to New Philadelphia.  Eighty-four of the trail’s 101 miles have been paved with a targeted completion date of 2020 for the rest.  Eventually, Northeast Ohio’s trail will join a route that travels through Columbus and Cincinnati to the Ohio River.
Ohio Canal Corridor Director Tim Donovan says the purchase will be a catalyst for new development.
"You can find a pattern of investment that has already happened along the depicted trail route through Tremont.  There’s been a number of homes built along the very bluff of Tremont in anticipation of the Towpath Trail."
The Flats is startlingly devoid of life at the moment, filled with overgrown brush and shuttered buildings.  Aside from the proposed Harrah’s casino and a mixed-used development with apartments and shopping, little is on the table.
On a recent scorching summer day in Cleveland, only a few people were in the Flats, but they had numerous suggestions on what they would like to see in a revitalized, bike-friendly development.
Steve and Sue Elkevizth from Medina were killing time while their out of town relatives visited the Rock Hall.
"And I said let’s go down to the Flats where I used to come for OU reunions, and the east side of the Flats looks pretty dead.   You know?  I love a little park area like this, I wish people would come and do it."
"Let’s please try to fund more things like that rather than have casinos come in and degrade the neighborhoods and stuff.  Which, we’ve been to Atlantic City it was not nice."
They’re in the minority.  Most people want to turn back the clock to the 1980s, when bars and nightclubs ruled the Flats.  Mike Audi remembers those days, but he’s still intrigued at the idea of biking to Cleveland from his hometown of Canton.
"I would ride, I don’t know how I would get back at night.  I mean, it would be hard to go and come back in one day.  If you rode and then you hung out in the bars all day, it would be awful hard to get back.  It would be, something you could spend the day and, hotels, so if you wanted to spend the night and not have to make the ride."
Mike’s daughter, Alix, is a student at John Carroll University.  She was waiting to take a bus to Chicago to investigate grad schools.  Right now, she sees no reason to visit the Flats, but that could change.
"I would love to have more environmentally friendly restaurants that are focused on Cleveland-grown local produce, local meats, local everything.  I mean Cleveland has a lot to offer, it’s one of the greatest local agriculture centers in the country."
The club scene migrated uphill from the Flats years ago, but with scenic land, a proposed park and a bike trail, perhaps the next decade will see the east and west banks filled with bikers instead of abandoned biker bars.

Related WKSU Stories

Towpath Trail extension granted
Thursday, May 13, 2010

The "last mile" has been secured
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

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