This fall 2017 kicks off Ohio’s Year of the Trails, so named by the state legislature, and with multiple trail networks under development—at the local, cross-state and even interstate levels—there is definite cause for celebration.
But there’s even more momentum building in the Buckeye State—as demonstrated by a major trail event on Oct. 25, 2017, in Columbus, the state capital. Hosted by the Ohio Legislative Trails Caucus, the Ohio Trails Partnership and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), the event welcomed more than 134 legislators and staffers, who walked down from The Statehouse (on a very chilly morning I might add) to enjoy a day on the beautiful Scioto Greenway Trail along its namesake river, a primary connecting corridor for the 180-mile Central Ohio Greenways network.
A shout-out to CoGo Bike Share and Hero USA, who collectively provided bikes, kayaks and paddleboards for the day’s activities. And a huge thank you to the many trail advocates and trail managers who joined us, including Columbus Recreation and Parks Department and Franklin County Metro Parks, both of whom have been trail development leaders in the region and the state.
This multiuse trail event was one of many in recent months hosted by the Ohio Legislative Trails Caucus, a bipartisan group of state-elected officials committed to connecting Ohioans via a statewide trail network. Formed by Sens. Sean O’Brien (D-District 32) and Steve Wilson (R-District 7) in April, the Caucus ensures that trail development will get attention at a statewide level from Ohio decision-makers—potentially resulting in new agency capacity and innovate policies. To the crowd gathered at the Scioto River, Sen. Wilson highlighted the importance of “raising awareness and promoting the longevity of the Buckeye State’s extensive trails network,” and stated that he would like to see “another 1,000 miles of trails in Ohio.”
The Ohio Legislative Trails Caucus is partnering with the Department of Natural Resources to develop a comprehensive online trail map that continually collects and consolidates Ohio’s trail data. This is a big deal, because it will support initiatives to update the state trail plan—designating local, regional, state and interstate trail systems—and to conduct a statewide economic impact study that will direct strategies to promote healthy communities.
Whether hiking, cycling, running, horseback riding, rolling or paddling, almost every Ohioan has enjoyed our state’s wonderful trails system at some point in their life.
—Senator Sean O’Brien
"Add that to the many economic benefits of Ohio’s trails—[then] making sure those trails are developed and preserved for years to come is an issue that people on both sides of the political aisle can agree upon," Sen. O’Brien pointed out. To have so many attendees at the event (and so much going on) underscores the interest and engagement that’s building for trails.
This bodes well for the completion of major projects such as the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition (IHTC), which is creating a 1,400-mile-plus trail network connecting four states. Ohio also has many other exciting trail projects, such as: the Ohio-to-Erie Trail, a nearly complete 330-mile trail from Cleveland to Cincinnati; Reconnecting Cleveland, a TIGER-funded project making massive strides to fill in urban trail connections in the city; and the work to CROWN the Queen in Cincinnati with a world-class urban bicycling network.
It’s clear that 2017-2018 marks not an apex—but a turning point—in trail development. Stay tuned for updates.