The Niles bike trail will be great for everybody, said Mayor Ralph Infante, when the ribbon was cut Friday to declare the 10-year project officially complete.
''It's another quality of life project here in Niles,'' Infante said.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who grew up in Niles, also expects the bike trail to bring good things to the community.
The Niles Times / Kathleen Evanoff
The Niles section of the Great Ohio Lake-to-River Greenway was officially declared open Friday. Louanna Lang, a resident of Central Park Apartments, cut the ribbon that officially opened the bike trail. Pictured, from left, are U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, Niles Councilman John Merlo, Mayor Ralph Infante, Louanna Lang, Reggie Giancola, Jr, Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda, State Rep. Sean O’Brien, bike trail proponent Bud Puskarich and Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka.
''Keeping young people in Niles is essential for the city's long-term growth,'' Ryan said. ''If you don't have that quality of life, the young people won't stay in the area.''
Ryan praised the trail as a great team effort and a good example of everyone working together.
According to Niles city engineer and grant coordinator Mark Hess, the success of the trail was a long process that finally came together after more than just a few obstacles delayed the project that was first brought to the city in 2002 by bicycle enthusiast Bud Puskarich.
''Every time we went a couple steps forward, we got knocked a couple steps back,'' Hess said.
Hess cited Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, who handled the federal funding for the project and the Ohio Department of Transportation District Four for their diligent work to help bring the project to fruition.
''The next step is connecting with Warren,'' Hess said.
Nearly every city department as well as elected officials from the federal, state and local levels were on hand for the speeches and eventual ribbon cutting that marked the completion of this phase of the project. The $5.5 million cost for the project was funded nearly all with grants. The entire Greenway bike trail, when completed, will span 100 miles from Lake Erie in Ashtabula County through Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana Counties to the Ohio River. Proposed side trails throughout other communities along the way are expected to connect to the Greenway as well.
Concerned about security along the trail, the Niles police and fire departments were exploring the purchase of an all- terrain vehicle to use for patrol and rescue, said Niles police chief Rob Hinton.
''We found that two 4-wheelers were purchased with a weapons of mass destruction grant in 2009 for police and fire rescue. They were being stored in Bazetta Township,'' Hinton said. ''One of them came to us, and other is still in Bazetta,'' he said.
The ATV seats three people in the front and is equipped with lights, siren, mobile radio and a gurney for transporting injured persons, Hinton said.
To celebrate the trail and help others in the community at the same time, The StoneYard Grill on Main Street is planning a Niles Trailhead Charity Bicycle Run to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank on Oct. 27. Proceeds from the bike run will benefit Second Harvest Food Bank.
The bicycle run will begin at the Niles Central Park Trailhead, ride the trail through Weathersfield and Austintown to the Canfield Trailhead and then will return to Niles. Participants will be eligible for prizes. The ride will begin with breakfast served from 8 to 9 a.m. and the first bike will be out at 9:30 a.m. Registration forms are available at StoneYard Grill or online at: nilestrailhead.eventbrite.com/