Dozens of cyclists turned out Tuesday evening for a ribbon cutting to honor the opening of the Warren leg of the Great Ohio Lake-to-River Greenway.
The event included a ceremonial bike ride from the Elm Road parking lot at Warren G. Harding High School to nearby Woodland Street.
Warren area cyclists stand on an old railroad trestle to watch and listen as Warren city and Trumbull County officials conduct a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Warren bike trail on Tuesday afternoon.
Photo by R. Michael Semple
The Warren portion of the project got under way in 2005, according to Mayor Doug Franklin, who was the city's safety service director at the time.
"This is a big day and a long time coming," Franklin said. "I remember signing the first contracts, so eight years later and we're finally at the point where we're kicking off the opening of the bike trail."
The ceremony marked the completed $1.8 million second phase of the city's portion of the bike trail, the final phase managed by the city of Warren. The three-mile stretch runs from North River Road to Burton Street on the south side of the city.
The first phase of Warren's trail was completed in 2010 at a cost of $1.5 million; that section runs from the Northend Park Trailhead at the corner of Fremont and Idylwild N.E. to North River Road.
The Warren portions of the Greenway are primarily being paid for through federal grants.
"We went through two engineers, two mayors from the start to finish of this project," Franklin said. "So, it has been a lot of coordination of public officials and communities working together to get this done."
The trails are part of the Great Ohio Lake-to-River Greenway, a project that will connect existing bike trails as well as construct new segments to form one 100-miles trail that will extend from Walnut Beach on Lake Erie down to the Ohio River near East Liverpool. All three Trumbull County trails will eventually be connected, and the Niles Greenway will connect to the Mill Creek MetroParks Bikeway in Mahoning County.
Third Ward Councilman John Brown said Tuesday's ceremony was a big step toward completion of the massive decade-long project.
"I have goose bumps right now," Brown said while waiting for the ceremonial bike ride to begin. "For me personally, it is going to mean that eventually I'll be able to get on my bike at my house and five hours later be at Lake Erie."
Brown has spearheaded the "Bike to Work" campaign to encourage residents to avoid driving and start biking when it is possible.
"I just retired from Thomas Steel and I'd routinely ride my bike to work at least 200 times a year," Brown said. "As long as it wasn't icy or snowy, I rode to work. I have always thought it isn't a big deal to ride four miles to work everyday. It's something that you just get used to doing."
To be sure, Bob Faulkner, a Warren Board of Education member, is also looking forward to the day when he can navigate the trails from Warren all the way up to Lake Erie.
"I travel to Boston and Chicago and other places and they have bikes all over the city," Faulkner said. "People can just go up, put a coin in a machine and take a bike, ride it wherever you want and then bring it back.
"Whether you are talking about the environment, fuel savings, safety, exercise and health, it is a great thing," he continued.
For Faulkner, the ribbon cutting is just one step but an important one.
"We aren't totally connected yet, but I think there were some people who had given up hope at one time that this would be completed," Faulkner said. "Hopefully this will sort of revive people. When people see this there may be a real push to go ahead and get it done."
The third phase of the bike trail will construct 2.2 miles of asphalt from North River Road to Champion East Road in Warren, Warren Township and Champion Township.
Zach Svette, operations director for the Trumbull County MetroParks, said that section is set to start construction some time next year.
"This is a big day for Warren and really a milestone for the city," Svette said. "A lot of work went into this."
Among the city and county officials, many residents were anxious to get their first look at the new trail.
Gladys Antonelli of Champion and her husband, Carl, often use the bike trails when visiting local restaurants or just to get some exercise.
"We wanted to show that there is an interest in the trail," Gladys Antonelli said. "People will come out. It's 80 degrees on a workday and people are out here ready to go. I think that kind of says it all. It's not like this is a lazy Sunday afternoon, but a work night."
Meanwhile, friends Bob McClain of Champion volunteers his time to helping take care of the bike trail from Champion to the northern Trumbull County line.
"To see this begin to develop and get connected up, I have such a great appreciation for it," McClain said. "It's very important for the community. I volunteer probably two or three days a week and a couple hours each day, much to my wife's chagrin.
"Her 'honey-do' list gets delayed a little bit," he laughed.
The third phase is being run by the Trumbull County Planning Commission with a possible completion date sometime in 2015.