shopping center and chases barges to the
mouth of the Cuyahoga River.
While most of the trail is now com-
plete, some of the toughest challenges lie
ahead. That’s because the hardest parts to
build run through Cleveland and other
built-out cities, where trail development
requires costly cleanup, infrastructure and
construction work.
Although making steady progress,
the Ohio & Erie Canalway Towpath
Trail is still several miles from its end-
point at Canal Basin Park in downtown
Cleveland. To get the towpath trail there,
developers must burrow through an active
industrial area of the Flats and the area’s
crumbling infrastructure. Trail advocates
have assembled $62 million in funding
so far to bring the trail to the park within
the next five years, but this work is a
game of miles that can sometimes feel like
Nonetheless, the impact of the
Ohio to Erie Trail network is palpable.
Neighborhoods along the trail are slowly
being rebuilt. In Cleveland’s Tremont
neighborhood, which sits along a bluff
overlooking the Cuyahoga River and
downtown, trailside homes are going
up in anticipation of the corridor.
Cleveland’s Flats is seeing a rebirth, with
the East Bank celebrating a new 18-story
office tower.
The trail has had a big impact on
Cleveland,” says Tim Donovan, execu-
tive director of Ohio Canal Corridor, the
nonprofit group working with the city to
finish the trail. He points to the fact that
the developer of Steelyard Commons,
a large shopping center on the site of a
former steel mill in the Flats, spent $1
million to build the trail through the
Once the towpath trail is fully built,
Donovan says, the number of users
could rival that of the Cuyahoga Valley
National Park, climbing to some 2 mil-
lion per year. The towpath trail will also
offer a commuter route into downtown
Cleveland, the area’s biggest employment
The slow but steady progress of the
towpath trail—and, indeed, of the entire
Ohio to Erie Trail—inspires Eric Oberg.
He says Ohio’s trail advocates have
encountered and triumphed over nearly
every possible challenge along the way—
from negotiating railroads for rights-of-
way to crafting easements and securing
funds. With only 10 percent of the trail’s
right-of-way left to be acquired, he is also
cautiously optimistic that the Ohio to
Erie Trail will be fully complete within
the next 10 to 15 years.
Sections of this trail have set the stan-
dard—not just in Ohio, but nationwide,”
Oberg says.
Lee Chilcote lives in Cleveland and writes for
a range of regional and national magazines.
He enjoys hiking and biking Ohio’s trails and
can often be found along the towpath trail.
On the Mohican Valley Trail near Brinkhaven,
the Bridge of Dreams across the Mohican River
is the longest covered bridge in Ohio.