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Towpath complete in Akron
Another segment complete in the 101 mile route from Lake Erie to Zoar

Mark Urycki
Looking South the towpath crosses the canal and enters mostly residential property just south of downtown Akron
Courtesy of Urycki
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In The Region:
The 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries have symbolically come together in Akron.  The city has opened the last remaining link of the Ohio Canal  towpath as it wends its way through Akron.  Supporters of the recreational trail call it a major step toward stitching back together the 101 mile path in northeast Ohio.
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Former Stark County Congressman Ralph Regula came up with idea of reviving the Ohio Canal Towpath as a long green park.  And one of the first sections of towpath to be renovated was in downtown Akron near a housing development called Channelwood Village in 1972. Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic acknowledged that sometimes it’s a fine line between a vision and a hallucination…

 Plusqellic:  “And there’s times when people look at some of the things we do and say ‘what in the hell is that mayor doing?’  This one was easy for me to see, the canal.”

Plusquellic grew up along the canal.  The whole reason Akron was founded was that a collection of businesses sprouted up around a series of canal locks.   Now the final section of that towpath trail has been opened up just south of the former BF Goodrich complex, itself the whole reason why Akron became the rubber capital of the country.   The Towpath is rapidly becoming the string that ties Northeast Ohio together.  The head of the Ohio Erie Canal Coalition, Dan Rice, called the final link a major milestone.

Rice:  “Akron becomes the first metropolitan city in the state of Ohio to have a complete towpath trail completed within side its corporate boundary limits  so this is a huge accomplishment not only for Akron and Summit County but for the entire state of Ohio.”  

The towpath and a new bridge on Bartges Street  cost 3.2 million dollars, with more than half of that coming from federal stimulus dollars.  But Rice says the project was in the works before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act   . .

Rice:  To me that’s a perfect marriage because this is all about community and economic development The Ohio Canal is right here.  It literally stimulated Ohio’s economy from the rural isolated frontier settlement  to the third most populous state in the nation.  In some small way we’re trying to recreate that.   
Urycki:  "How much trail do you have through the city?"

Rice: "In the city there’re about 10 miles of trail through the city of Akron.   Now we’re connected down to Stark County and we just received a grant from ODNR of $150,000 to build another 2.7 miles next year down in Tuscarawas County. Mile by mile, step by step,  we’re working hard to complete Congressman Regula’s vision.”    

In 2008, Akron spent 2 ¾ million dollars on a huge bridge to carry the towpath trail over the Innerbelt expressway.    A year later it spent 3.6 million to construct a floating boardwalk across Summit Lake. Now that the city has connected all the links, Mayor Plusquellic has thrown out a challenge  

Plusquellic:  “We are completing this trail through Akron, 9 or 10 miles, and Cleveland hasn’t finished the first foot.  C’mon Cleveland get your act together.”

Afterwards, Tom Yablonsky of Ohio Canal Corridor corrected the mayor.  They have completed 1.2 miles in Cleveland, where much of the towpath is in private hands or on contaminated land.  In the Spring the OCC will cut the ribbon on a nine million dollar stretch of towpath at Scranton Road.  Another 4.2 miles of connector trails have also been built.  Now that the final towpath segment in Akron is finished,  the city will go back to repair that very first segment they refurbished  in 1972.  

Related Links & Resources
Ohio Canalway

Listener Comments:

Now how about cleaning up the canal. My property ajoins the canal and it is nothing but a swamp that is full of trash. Either let the water flow or fill it up. It is a health hazard, eye sore and stinks. I have been told that no one will touch it because it could be hazardous material.

Why go half way with the project? Man made it, man stopped the flow and man can fix it. Too bad the people with the money do not see this part of their great adventure.

Posted by: Bob Kerr (Canal Fulton, OH) on October 27, 2011 1:10AM
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