Working Together to Connect the Region’s Shared-Use Trails
Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail | Photo by Richard T. Bower
The vision of the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition (IHTC) is to establish the Industrial Heartland as a premier destination offering a 1,500-miles-plus multiuse trail network experience.
The IHTC network will stretch across 51 counties in four states—Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New York—from the shores of Lake Erie to the confluence of the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh and on to the Ohio River and Appalachian foothills.
RTC partnered with the City of Cleveland , other public agencies and local bike advocates to conduct a BikeAble study with the intention of better understanding the potential impact of each potential project. This study, Advancing Cleveland’s Active Transportation Agenda, reveals how strategic, prioritized investments in trails and biking infrastructure could improve connectivity for residents citywide and examines how these investments bring value to neighborhoods experiencing inequality.
In West Virginia, an incredible opportunity awaits.
The 238-mile Parkersburg to Pittsburgh (P2P) rail-trail is already nearly 80 percent complete; just a few short gaps exist in West Virginia to unlock a contiguous 150-miles-plus stretch of the rail-trail from Parkersburg to the state’s border with Pennsylvania. A recent study by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy finds that these gaps could be closed, and the potential of the corridor realized, within the next decade.
Explore the IHTC Footprint
Pittsburgh will serve as the IHTC network’s hub, with trails radiating out of the metro area and connecting to Cleveland, Akron and Ashtabula in Ohio, Morgantown and Parkersburg in West Virginia, and Erie in Pennsylvania.
What This Means for the Industrial Heartland
The IHTC builds upon past efforts to organize the trails community, leverage the cultural heritage of the region into a premier trail destination, and harness and amplify the benefits of the region’s trails systems. This includes stimulating the regional economy through outdoor tourism and small business investment, and creating social equity and new health connections for underserved communities across the project footprint.
Creating a New Regional Identity
The IHTC will spur a new wave of regional tourism, encouraging exploration of the small towns, major cities, historical sites, rivers and mountains that characterize America’s first frontier and heartbeat of the industrial revolution. The project is establishing a new collective identity for the communities along the route whose shared past and present—of innovation, steel, agriculture, manufacturing, boom, bust, reinvention and renewal—becomes their shared future.
Creating Smart Transportation Options
Approximately 3.5 million people living in 1.5 million households are located within 3 miles of a destination corridor. Of those people, 85 percent are older than 16 (employment age). Of those living within 1 mile of a destination corridor, 89.1 percent who are employed commute by car—and only 4.7 percent currently walk or bike to their jobs. Filling in the trail network’s 700 miles of gaps will provide hundreds of thousands of people new, safe off-road access to areas of commerce and places of employment in major cities and small communities across the route.
Promoting Social Equity and Health
Completing the gaps in the trail network will provide increased access to safe active transportation routes and opportunities for physical activity to underserved populations throughout the project footprint. For example, in Pennsylvania, African Americans have extremely high rates of obesity and chronic disease due to issues such as poverty, less access to grocery stores and less access to parks and green space. Changes to the built environment will reduce these barriers to access while creating new connections to jobs and shopping centers and supporting healthier lifestyles.
Transforming Local Economies
The surge of collective energy around the IHTC is driven in part by a realization that the project means new economic opportunity and vitality across the project footprint. A recent study about the project’s potential economic impact found that the network is uniquely positioned to bring value to the region by harnessing its industrial past and cultural history into a new shared identity that promotes tourism and increases trail use and demand.
How We’re Achieving the Vision
Since 2013, IHTC has worked to make the 1,500-miles-plus vision a reality.
Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) , the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program Ohio field office and RTC are collaborating to lead and staff the regional trail effort.
Sign on here to learn more about the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition and how you can get involved.