The Northwestern Ohio Rails-to-Trails Association got more than a hint this summer of how popular the Wabash Cannonball Trail can be with the public.
A $2.1 million Ohio Department of Transportation project begun in May to pave a 6.1-mile section of the trail between Swanton and Delta was still underway in June. But that didn’t prevent people from using the unfinished path after construction hours and on weekends once they saw the beginnings of asphalt.
“As soon as the pavement started to go down in June there were people riding sections of (the trail),” said Tom Striggow, vice president of NORTA, which owns the newly-paved section of trail. “We had ‘closed’ signs up at the intersections of the trails.”
With that portion of the project now finished, NORTA held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 10 attended by local dignitaries. Now the paved trail, which reaches from S. Fulton Lucas Road to State Route 109, will be fitted with wooden safety fencing in areas along ravine drop-offs.
Striggow said those who sneaked onto the path before paving was completed are proof that upgrading untreated parts of the Wabash Cannonball Trail will bring out community members in droves.
“People are just swarming to it. It’s just busy, busy busy” with walkers and bicyclists, he said. “There are a lot of hungry bicyclists looking for food, ice cream, and water. (That’s) going to help the Village of Delta, I’ll tell you that.”
NORTA’s 12-foot wide asphalted section of the trail, which crosses Swan Creek and Bad Creek, was funded through a grant from ODOT’s Alternative Transportation Fund. While owned by NORTA, a non-profit volunteer organization, the section will be patrolled and maintained by the Metroparks Toledo. Other sections of the lengthy trail are owned by Wauseon, Maumee, Toledo, and Lucas County.
Wauseon Public Service Director Keith Torbet said 2.5 miles of the 12 miles of Wabash Cannonball Trail owned by the city are paved, from County Road 13 to just behind International Auto Components (IAC), located on West Linfoot Street. Brush was cleared and asphalt grindings – recycled material of minimal cost – were placed on the path.
The city owns the trail from County Road 11 to where it intersects at U.S. 20A. A kiosk with a map and information has been placed at the trail at Rotary Park.
Torbet said the city has received compliments about the transition from both residents and NORTA, indicating a large increase in the section’s use. “It’s getting a lot more use because it’s accessible. It’s going to bring in some revenue now that it’s more accessible,” he said. “If nothing else, it’s a great resource for our citizens to take advantage of. Not a lot of cities have this.”
Torbet reminded citizens the trail is only for walking and biking, not motor vehicles.
According to Striggow, 99% of feedback NORTA receives about the paving is positive, and people are clamoring for more paved trail in Fulton County.
“Some people wish the trail was still stone and dirt, but more people can use the trail when it’s paved, whether they’re on rollerblades or bicycles or…have mobility problems,” he said. “This is going to be an economic stimulator to Fulton County.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.