Step by step, the Ohio To Erie Trail (OTET) gets closer to completion, and the public got to hear the latest about local links in an open house Tuesday at the Sunbury Town Hall.
The state-long trail spans 326 miles from the Ohio River to Lake Erie. There’s a few connections left to be made in eastern Delaware County to safely complete the multi-use pathway.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recently announced Preservation Parks of Delaware County was awarded $500,000 from the 2019 Clean Ohio Trails Fund for work on OTET. The total project cost is $675,500, and the grant recipients provide a 25% match.
“This project will span 2.25 miles along a former railroad corridor and will encompass parcels acquired by Preservation Parks District in 2018,” ODNR states in a press release. “Clean Ohio Trails Fund assistance will fund a portion of the construction, design, and engineering phases of this project.” Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.
“The Clean Ohio Trails Fund continues to improve access to recreational opportunities for all Ohioans,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. “Trails are a safe and fun way for people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with nature.”
In all, ODNR awarded $6.64 million to 20 projects statewide.
“Trails are a great way to enjoy the outdoors and stay active,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “By providing these grants, we can help communities across the state provide Ohioans with more options for recreation.”
In addition, the Galena Brick Trail, which connects the village of Galena to Sunbury at the Sandel Legacy Trail, was completed late last year. The Galena Brick Trail goes into the village and eventually connects to the Hoover Scenic Trail and the Genoa Township Trail.
Matt Simpson, Preservation Parks planning and construction manager, gave an update on OTET. He said they will apply for another Clean Ohio Trails Fund grant to pave another section of the railroad corridor from Hartford Road northeast toward Condit. This 1.4-mile section would connect to the 2.25-mile section, which ends at the 1.6-mile Meredith State Road Trail and then the Heart of Ohio Trail heading to Centerburg in Knox County.
If approved, construction on the 1.4-mile section could take place in 2021. That would leave a gap from Hartford Road to Big Walnut Creek, and another segment in Sunbury that would connect to the Sandel Legacy Trail as future trails.
Preservation Parks “now owns the entire railroad corridor,” Simpson said. They would maintain and patrol their portion of the trail, from Sandel through Meredith.
Completely paving each section of trail requires grants, either through ODNR or Ohio Department of Transportation. In addition to ownership, there is also dealing with various jurisdictions — counties, villages and townships. For example, there’s a “critical” 1,000-foot section at the border of Delaware, Licking and Knox counties that is unfinished.
Simpson said once all the portions are paved 10-foot wide with asphalt (the rail-trails are up to 66 feet wide), the next step would be to obtain funding for amenities, such as restrooms and parking lots.
In response to one of many questions from the public, Simpson said trailheads would most likely originate in populated areas to encourage commerce in what are called “trail towns.”
“We’ve been working on this for 20-some years,” said Bill Shelby from Delaware County Friends of the Trail, who introduced Simpson. “In two years, we’ll have this thing done.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.