Two major trails in Summit and Portage counties are connected, linking two of the region’s largest universities and allowing Portage County to connect directly to the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath.
Summit Metro Parks plans to connect Summit County’s Freedom Trail from the trailhead at 1324 Middlebury Road – where Tallmadge, Stow, Brimfield Township and Kent meet, off State Highway 261 – to the hiking trail and seven-mile Portage Bike Trail from Portage County.
Construction of the connection is expected to begin in the summer of 2023 and is expected to take approximately six months. The works include a bridge over an existing CSX railway line and a switchback-style path over the grade change between the two trails.
The Portage section begins west of Peck Road in Ravenna and passes through Ravenna, Ravenna Township and Kent, providing access to Towner’s Woods and Chestnut Hills Park.
“I think there was always a vision that we were going to connect it to the Portage,” Summit Metro Parks brand manager Lindsay Smith said of the Freedom Trail. “A lot of the challenge with that had been finding a safe way to make that connection because with the nature of the area it just wasn’t something where we could just send people to the other side. from the street. It just wouldn’t have been a secure enough connection to make. So the solution they came up with addresses that, and we’re finally at the point where we’re able to do that.
The total cost of the connection project is expected to be $1.75 million. The funding includes a $700,000 grant from the Greater Akron Transportation Study. The rest will be funded by Summit Metro Parks, which is still seeking additional grants for the project.
The Freedom Trail, which follows an unused rail corridor, has been an ongoing project for over a decade.
A rail-to-trail multi-use trail conversion, the trail begins at the Portage County line and is currently passable to Union Street in Akron. Most of it is located in Tallmadge.
Construction on the Freedom Trail began in 2011, with the first phase being 4.2 miles. The second phase was 2 miles, the third phase was 1.8 miles and the fourth phase will be 1.4 miles. When it’s done, the Freedom Trail will be 9.4 miles long. In total, the cost of the project is approximately $3 million over more than a decade.
The third phase should be completed in July. Smith said the third phase had been “mostly done for some time” but had been delayed for more than a year due to a land dispute involving a section between East Market and Mill streets.
The entire trail is built on land owned by the Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority, with the park district having entered into an agreement with the transit agency to build the trail. There was a dispute over whether Metro RTA or railroad company CSX owned the land. After a study, it was determined that Metro RTA owned the land and the project was able to continue moving forward.
Construction on the fourth and final phase — which will take cyclists through downtown Akron to connect to the Ohio & Erie Canal towpath near the Spaghetti Warehouse on South Main Street — will begin in the summer next.
“Phase four will connect the Freedom Trail to the Towpath Trail, which is really exciting because as often as possible, Summit Metro Parks looks for ways to connect the trails because that’s what our visitors tell us they really want, so it gives people a lot of options, even when it comes to travel,” Smith said. “A lot of people share an interest in using the trails as an alternative way to get around, and having that connection connect to very important trails in a very useful way for our visitors.”
To view project renders of the Freedom to Portage Trail Connection, or to provide feedback on the project, visit Summitmetroparks.org/project-updates.aspx.