Cuyahoga County Planning Commission
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Towpath Trail Extension

Alignment and Design Study: Page One

Towpath Trail Extension









Alignment & Design Study

Project Background and Significance
The Towpath Trail has become a defining feature in the Cuyahoga Valley landscape. Constructed 175 years ago as part of the Ohio & Erie Canal, it was a simple dirt path on which to lead animals pulling canal boats. When the economically unprofitable canal finally ceased to be used after the 1913 flood, the towpath survived as a silent witness to an earlier era.

The rediscovery of the towpath began with the establishment of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area (now Cuyahoga Valley National Park) in 1974 as a unit of the National Park Service. One of the major projects completed by the National Park Service was the conversion of approximately 20 miles of the towpath into a shared use trail. The success of this segment of towpath, which has over 1.7 million users per year, has sparked a campaign to extend the Towpath Trail to over 100 miles as a continuous journey through the federally designated Ohio & Erie National Heritage Corridor. In addition, the heritage corridor trail will serve as the northeast Ohio section of the State of Ohio's planned Ohio to Erie Trail.

Cleveland Metroparks has completed additional segments of the Towpath Trail in its Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation, situated immediately north of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Approximately six miles of trail have been completed, and the northern terminus of the Towpath Trail is now at old Harvard Avenue.

In 1999, the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission (CPC) published Linking the Corridor: A Plan for the Towpath Trail in the North Cuyahoga Valley Corridor. This document is a guide plan for the future design and construction of the approximately five-mile long trail segment from the Metroparks Reservation at old Harvard Avenue to downtown Cleveland at the proposed Canal Basin Park, which will incorporate the original terminus of the Ohio & Erie Canal with the Cuyahoga River. The plan includes an inventory of existing conditions and resources within the study area; an examination of route alternatives, their feasibility, and impacts; and implementation strategies.

Tremont Ridge looking north

Alignment & Design Study
Since the 1999 publication of Linking the Corridor, a conceptual plan prepared by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission for the final Towpath Trail segment into downtown Cleveland, additional issues and studies have emerged which have influenced the Towpath Trail project. The issues and studies have included, but have not been limited to, the dissolution of LTV Steel, the potential revitalization of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's (CMHA) Riverview Estates and Valleyview Estates, the potential redevelopment of the Scranton Road Peninsula by Forest City Enterprises, the Ohio Department of Transportation's Cleveland Innerbelt study, and the City of Cleveland's Flats Transportation Study.

During 2001 and 2002, CPC assembled $225,000 in funds from the Ohio & Erie Canal Association, Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners, City of Cleveland, Cleveland Metroparks, The Cleveland Foundation, and The George Gund Foundation for the purpose of retaining a team of consultants to conduct an Alignment & Design Study. This study provided engineering and design services to refine the concepts, route alternatives, and most appropriate responses to the issues of probable construction cost, opportunity to further goals of community redevelopment, ability to be implemented, public safety, aesthetics, and usage.

Vision Statement
As part of the Ohio & Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor, the extension of the Towpath Trail in Cleveland will weave a ribbon of green space from Canal Basin Park in the Flats to the Canal Reservation at Harvard Avenue. This multipurpose trail will be an extraordinary recreational amenity highlighting Cleveland's industrial river valley and serving its surrounding neighborhoods. It will also be a major environmental reclamation effort capable of stimulating new economic development all along the industrial corridor.

The Towpath Trail Extension honors the innovative spirit that shaped Cleveland's history, from its early and prolonged transportation and industrial prominence, through the pivotal period when the national environmental movement emerged from its burning river, to the current partnership-based revitalization of neighborhoods, the Flats, and downtown Cleveland.

To the future, the Towpath Trail marks the threshold of re-invention: rebuilding a competitive economic center in a distinctive setting based upon the principles of sustainable development; illuminating the industrial grandeur and its significance; enhancing a vital, working, Cuyahoga River; offering a regional recreational amenity; and improving the quality of life by delivering people to the water's edge, where they have not been in generations.


This report is also available as a PDF with maps (21.3 MB) and without maps (5.6 MB).


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