Historic canal trail to pass through Groveport and Lockbourne

By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Editor

Photo courtesy of the Groveport Heritage Museum
This is a view of the Ohio and Erie Canal in Groveport looking northeast from Oak Street toward Main Street from around 1900. The iron Main Street bridge can be seen in the background at right. The canal ran along what is now Wirt Road in this section of town.

Communities up and down the length of the old Ohio and Erie Canal are getting ready to celebrate their canal history and the creation of the new driving trail that highlights that heritage.

The Scenic Scioto Heritage Trail, Inc., and its partner communities recently announced the development of the new Ohio and Erie Canal Southern Descent Heritage Trail from Buckeye Lake to Portsmouth.

Groveport will hold its kickoff event, Groveport Canal Day: Celebrating Our Heritage Along the Southern Descent Trail, for the trail on Sept. 5 from noon to 4 p.m. in Heritage Park, 551 Wirt Road. It will include refreshments and possibly acoustic music entertainment. Heritage Park will serve as the starting point for people to venture out to view other canal sites in town including the Sharp’s Landing building across from the Groveport Cemetery; a canal mural inside KidSpace, 630 Wirt Road; the Groveport Heritage Museum in Town Hall, 648 Main St.; Lock 22 in Groveport Park; canal channel remnants in Blacklick Park, and more. Visitors may walk to the sites or use a shuttle to Lock 22 provided by the city of Groveport.

“Any time we can do things to preserve our heritage I’m all for it,” said Groveport Mayor Lance Westcamp. “The recent National Register of Historic Places designation for Lock 22 as part of Ohio & Erie Canal Southern Descent Historic District is also a chance to showcase our community as a welcoming and interesting place for people to visit.”

The village of Lockbourne’s kickoff event is Sept. 25 from 2-6 p.m. at Locke Meadow Park, 154 Commerce St.

“We don’t have all the details worked out yet,” said Lockbourne Mayor Christie Ward. “I will share them once they are finalized. In the meantime, this is our plan. We will have guided hikes along the Magnolia Trail, a talk on the history of the Ohio & Erie Canal and Lockbourne’s significance during the canal days, activities and games for the children, chili cook off, and hopefully a live band.”

Additionally, Ward said Lockbourne was chosen as one of the trailheads for the Ohio and Erie Canal Southern Descent Heritage Trail “because of the many locks in and near the village and because of the nearby Columbus Feeder Canal.”

“Places like Groveport should be celebrated for their history. Lockbourne is the only place one can see remnants of the Columbus Feeder Canal,” said Ohio and Erie Canal Southern Descent Heritage Trail Project Director Cathy Nelson. “The beauty of this project is all the time and effort put into it by people in the 25 communities along the trail. Canal history is important because the canal opened up the world for people in Ohio who lived near it.”

About the trail
The 114 mile driving trail of the The Ohio & Erie Canal Southern Descent Historic District begins at the southern edge of Buckeye Lake in Fairfield County. It includes Bibler lock 8 in Baltimore; locks 11, 12, and 13 in Lockville; lock 22 in Groveport; locks 26, 27, 29, and 30 in and near Lockbourne; and remnants of the Columbus Feeder just west of Lockbourne in Franklin County.

In Pickaway County the trail passes lock 31 in Millport and includes Canal Park in Circleville. In Scioto County the trail continues south through Rushtown at lock 48 and lock 50 in West Portsmouth and ends at lock 55, west of downtown Portsmouth at the Ohio River.

All of these canal locks, with the exception of lock 55, are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Work to list lock 55 is underway. The locks’ function was to raise and lower water levels for canal boats to meet the changing level of terrain.

Residents and visitors can learn the story of this important transportation route as they follow the driving trail. Creation of the trail, which will be launched this fall, is being funded by the Canal Society of Ohio and Ohio Humanities grants.

Promoting the trail
Nelson said a website page about the trail project will soon be up and running at seeohiofirst.org. She said it will include historical narratives about the 25 communities along the trail as well as information about places of historical merit and points of interest in each town.

According to Nelson, signage marking the canal sites and trails in the various communities will be the responsibility of the various municipalities. However, each community will receive one interpretive sign that explains how a canal lock works.

She said the various signage will provide continuity and connectivity along the trail for visitors.

“People love transportation history and will travel to areas to see canal remnants and sites,” Nelson said. “These visitors enhance local economies by bringing in tourism dollars to communities. A historic corridor people can visit is fabulous for the towns near where these locks and other canal features are located.”

Groveport City Administrator B.J. King said the city will help promote the trail on its Facebook pages and website and work on providing signage as well as maintaining historic Lock 22 in Groveport Park.

For information about the Ohio and Erie Canal Southern Descent Heritage Trail, contact project director Cathy Nelson at cathyd.nelson@gmail.com.

Canal history
The Ohio and Erie Canal was completed between 1827-32 and wound 308 miles through Ohio connecting Lake Erie at Cleveland to the Ohio River in Portsmouth. The canal, a man-made waterway that was an engineering marvel, was built to enhance transportation and shipping in the state.

Lock 22 in Groveport

Lock 22 located in Groveport Park.

Lock 22 in Groveport is about 190-years-old and is made of sandstone block. Its overall length is 117 feet and its chamber is 90 feet long and 16 feet wide.

The lock is owned and maintained by the city of Groveport and is located in the northern part of Groveport Park. It is accessible from Groveport Park and Blacklick Park.

The canal channel is still visible near lock 22 as well as in Groveport’s Blacklick Park and along Rohr Road south of town. Additionally, a dry dock and canal boatyard operated in the 1800s in what is now Blacklick Park. The canal operated in Groveport from 1831 to the early 1900s and the transportation opportunities it offered for shipping and travel were a significant factor in the economic development and growth of the city.

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