ELYRIA — Lorain County Metro Parks officials expect a 1.2-mile extension of the Lorain County Metro Parks walking and biking trail through part of Elyria to be finished a bit early — possibly, as soon as fall.
“They’re sailing right along,” Metro Parks Director Jim Ziemnik said.
Known as the Gateway phase of the park district trail, the small Elyria section will border and cross the Black River.
When completed, it will be part of a network of 35 to 40 miles of paved exercise trails extending from Wakeman to the area of the Henderson Memorial Bridge in Lorain.
These local trails will eventually link to a 16-mile-long portion of the North Coast Inland Trail, which will ultimately extend to the Toledo area.
Being paid for with 80 percent federal dollars and 20 percent Metro Parks funds, the 1.2-mile Elyria extension is using federal transportation money designated for “alternative transportation” projects.
The 10-foot-wide path will take riders, walkers and joggers from an area near the Elyria Police Department on Lake Avenue to Broad Street before crossing the Black River on a new 224-foot bridge and ending at the existing bikeway trailhead on Gateway Boulevard.
Work on the trail extension and bridge is under way, with pavement being installed at the west end of Broad Street and along Water Street.
“We’ll get pavement down and then the asphalt,” Ziemnik said. “When it’s all said and done, we’ll have a nice multi-purpose path.”
Other phases planned for the next four to five years will enable people to walk or bike from the High Meadows Park off Ford Road along West River Road to Cascade Park.
“That agreement will allow us to get other pieces and parts together so we can hopefully get everything together by 2016 or 2017,” Ziemnik said.
A master plan for the trail will see it extend all the way to Lorain, and by 2017 or 2018, Ziemnik hopes to be part of a consortium of county park districts offering 100 miles of trails running from Lorain County to the Maumee River in Lucas County in northwestern Ohio.
“We’re guardedly optimistic of working a deal that is looking at groups with old rail beds (commonly used for trails) north and south of the North Coast Inland Trial,” Ziemnik said.
The federal “alternative transportation” funds being used to pay for the bulk of trail work come from gasoline taxes, Ziemnik said.
“Consumption is down because cars are more efficient, and the downside of that for us is that gas tax collections are down, which ultimately delay some of our projects,” Ziemnik said.
“But we’re patient people,” Ziemnik added. “We don’t mind waiting a year or so for the long-term good.”
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.