Happy trails…

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Messenger photos by Linda Dillman

Metro Parks Executive Director John O’Meara (left) accepts a ceremonial spike from Madison County Park Board representative Chris Snyder during the Dec. 1 opening of the Roberts Pass section of the Ohio to Erie Trail on Wilson Road in Madison County.

Gene Pass and Wayne Roberts (center) cut the ribbon to officially dedicate Roberts Pass, a section of the Ohio To Erie Trail that runs from Maple Road to Wilson Road in Madison County. The men are active members of the Friends of Madison County Parks & Trails, a non-profit organization that has put many years worth of work into developing the county’s portion of the cross-state trail.

A paved trail in London from Maple Street to Wilson Road is only seven miles long, but its significance in linking Cincinnati to Cleveland is immeasurable by connecting Madison County to Franklin County through Ohio’s heartland.

Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails (FMCPT) members were rewarded for their efforts to complete a biking and walking path from South Charleston, through London, to Franklin County with the opening of the newly completed Roberts Pass section of the Ohio to Erie Trail on Dec. 1.

Spanning the state, the Ohio to Erie Trail follows land formerly owned by railroads and canals and passes through rural areas, farmland, nature preserves, and regional parks. According to the Ohio to Erie Trail organization, the trail will eventually connect Cincinnati, Columbus, Akron and Cleveland; a dozen large towns; and numerous small villages on accessible, paved trails.

Nearly 300 miles of the 453-mile trail are already open and in use by cyclists, hikers, walkers, skaters and equestrians. In central Ohio, the trail follows the Olentangy River bike path from Columbus to Westerville and begins/ends at Plumb Street in Genoa Township. In the winter, the trail affords opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing

On Dec. 1, state and city governments officials, Franklin and Madison county officials, recreation enthusiasts and area residents looked on as a red ribbon was cut signifying the completion of the Madison County portion of the trail.

“It’s been a long road,” said Madison County Commissioner Bob Hackett. “This all started in September 1999. It was a long process. We were in a court battle, but the first phase was finally done. We’re persistent and we don’t give up.

“The governor (Bob Taft) gave us a little over $400,000, but it had to be allocated through ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation). Senator Steve Austria entered the picture and worked with ODOT to try and lower the (Federal) standards (to lower the cost). It’s been a really long process, but it’s come to the point where we’re in really good shape.”

In December 2003, a court ruling allowed construction plans in Madison County to move forward, and the section of the trail from South Charleston to London was completed in June 2004. In July 2005, a limestone base was completed for the Maple to Wilson segment, which was dedicated to Wayne Roberts and Gene Pass of the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails. State grants and state capital improvement money paid for the paving of the Roberts Pass, which wrapped up last month. Now, the responsibility of continu-ing the trail is in Franklin County’s hands.

State Representative Chris Widener told the standing-room-only crowd the trails have been very successful in many Ohio counties because of partnerships like the one with the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails.

“These are the people that keep the pressure on every day,” commented Widener.

The fact that the main trail is essentially done in Madison County doesn’t mean the pressure is off. Wayne Roberts, FMCPT president, said his group will continue to work on trail-related projects.

“Our next priority for long-range planning is to complete the trail through London where it follows the streets,” Roberts said. “We’re trying to improve the current route, and we want to work towards a non-street route. It is an impor-tant issue for our group and the city of London.

“Another high-priority project is work-ing with various groups in the community on how to find a route and interconnection to facilitate bicycle traffic between the Ohio to Erie Trail, West Jefferson, Lake Choctaw, and Madison Lake. By no means is our work done, and we’re looking forward to the community using the trails as much as possible.”

Widener also praised the Greene County park system for providing leader-ship for the area trail project, as well as former Governor Bob Taft, a proponent of the statewide initiative.

“Funding didn’t make it in the Senate and House versions of the Capital Budget, but Gov. Taft put the $500,000 in his budget for Madison County,” Widener said.

Columbus Recreation and Parks Direc-tor Alan McKnight said it takes a lot of effort to pull together a collaborative project such as the Ohio to Erie Trail, and it can be both difficult and stressful for all parties involved. However, he emphasized the end product is well worth the effort.

“We’re working on a lot of projects,” continued McKnight. “Trails are important to our community in a lot of ways. They are a critical part of Mayor Coleman’s Green Initiative and a means of transportation. We talk a lot about neighborhoods, and trails are very important in connecting neighborhoods.”

The ribbon-cutting was preceded by a ceremonial exchange of a metal spike representing the hand-off of the endeavor from Madison County to Columbus Metro Parks, who will continue negotiations with a railroad company for right-of-way mileage in both counties.

“We look forward to getting the rest of the trail done,” said John O’Meara, Metro Parks executive director. “The gap is in the middle and we need to close the gap.”

Madison County Timeline: Trail Development

September 1999—London Council hears plans for a trail from South Charleston through London

April 2000—Friends of Madison County Parks & Trails formed

June 2001—ODNR allocates $2.2 million for Cedarville-London trail

November 2001—Trail opens from Cedarville to South Charleston

June 2002—3,000 Great Ohio Bicycle Adventurers in London

May 2003—FMCPT conducts first public auction to raise funds

June 2003—ODNR grant secured to build Senior Center trailhead

December 2003—Court ruling allows construction to start

June 2004—Trail completed from South Charleston to London

June 2004—McKenzie Bridge connects Senior Center, trailhead

June 2004—Boy Scout Troop 102 kicks off “Adopt a Trail” program

September 2004—Senior Center trailhead completed

October 2004—Construction begins on Maple-Wilson segment

July 2005—Limestone base done for Maple-Wilson segment, which is named Roberts Pass

August 2005—Taft announces $436,566 grant for Roberts Pass

November 2005—Trailhead parking area constructed by Sean Deaver and Boy Scout Troop 104

December 2005—Mini-shelter constructed by Matt Grigsby and Boy Scout Troop 102

June 2006—GOBA again

October 2006—$210,000 ODNR grant will pave Roberts Pass

January 2007—$400,000 from State Budget for Roberts Pass

October 2007—Paving of Roberts Pass begins

November 2007—Roberts Pass paving completed

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