Effort to connect Ohio River and Lake Erie with bike trail still ongoing

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We’ve reported on it before – the effort to create roughly 100 miles of bike trail connecting Lake Erie to the Ohio River.

It’s a project nearly three decades in the making. So how close is the trail to being complete?

An updated map of the plan that stretches through Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties shows great progress, but there are still some holes.

The northern point, at Lake Erie in Ashtabula County, is the final leg for the Ashtabula Metro Parks. The leg is about 4.25 miles and is slated to be done this fall. The county park has already completed more than 27 miles.

In Trumbull County, The Metro Parks have completed more than 24 miles. Their final leg is about 4 miles and is also already in the works. The goal is to have the portion completed in 2022 but, officials haven’t started the process of acquiring land. Which is exactly where Mahoning County is tied up in the process.

The Mill Creek Metro Parks have completed several miles, yet are in the process of filing potentially 13 lawsuits to get the land they need for their final 6.5 miles.

The hold up is a group of residents who don’t want the trail in their backyards.

“A person on the bike trail can literally stop their bicycle and physically, from me to that women right there, look into my house. That is appalling to me,” said one landowner during a meeting in Green Township.

21 News asked Mill Creek’s Executive Director why the park felt strong enough to take legal action.

“You can find in all areas that have bikeways and trails and connectors that it’s millions of dollars in economic activity from the recreation side and I don’t see this trail as being any different,” said Executive Director Aaron Young.

The plan is to begin construction on Mahoning County’s final leg next year, but that could be delayed depending on the legal process.

Meanwhile, in Columbiana County is the largest gap in the project. The Columbiana County Park District has completed 12 miles of trail reaching Lisbon. But, from there it drops off.

There’s roughly 25 more miles needed to get to the Ohio River and no real plan in place to get there.

“The number one obstacle is still finding the exact route and getting that route approved, as far as either buying properties or having easements or whatever,” said Tom Butch with the park.

So, will the final stretches of this project get done?

Those tasked with the job say, yes. A project nearly thirty years in the making, they say it may take another ten and it may cost more than anticipated but, this trail is making it’s way from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.