CLEVELAND - The ground in the normally empty lot at 1871 Scranton Rd. may have needed heavy equipment because of the summer drought in downtown Cleveland, but shovels held by dozens of people did their best to break the dry grass in celebration of a new towpath construction.
The groundbreaking on Monday marked a long wait for needed funds to see its beginning come to fruition.
Hosted by the Ohio and Erie Canalway Association, co-executive director Tim Donovan emceed a stage full of local politicians each speaking on the importance of the new towpath construction, linking the final northern leg of the towpath to Cleveland from its current southern entry point in Tuscarawas County.
More than $7 million were raised after being sought for several years by Donovan.
"The reason we failed was because we didn't have site control. But, we did a lot of good work. We did a lot of good planning and we used that planning and work to now segregate our funding, go after the funds we needed to buy the land, secure the site. And once we did that, we knew we'd be in a better position to go after what we saw were the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds," said Donovan. "We did everything we said we were going to do and we were successful in everything we said we were going to do."
What this means is a year of construction and paving which will begin right away to link the current end of the towpath off of Harvard Avenue, east of Jennings Road, to the towpath break in trail in the Tremont neighborhood to downtown of the Scranton Road site in the Flats area in sight of Tower City.
Local cyclists, hikers, runners, horseback riders and others attended the groundbreaking with their own shovels.
Cleveland resident David Jurca sat quietly on his bicycle, still in his bicycling helmet under the late morning heat and sweltering humidity. He said it was well worth it to celebrate this day.
"The trail is fantastic because it really gives you the sense of history of Cleveland. You understand the industrial past that really built the city via the path that the goods used to travel along the canal," Jurca said.
"You see the old factories, some of the steel mills that are still working, some that are not in use. But, you also get that opportunity to get away, to get into nature and you feel like you're somewhere other than the city, which is nice to get that experience every now and then."
For more information in your area visit: www.clevelandmetroparks.com , www.nps.gov/cuva , www.summitmetroparks.org , www.StarkParks.com , www.co.tuscarawas.oh.us/Park/Canal%20Lands.htm , www.cvsr.com or www.ohioanderiecanalway.com