Extending the Towpath Trail
north through the Flats

See our cool interactive tour of the Towpath extension!
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The Towpath Trail is a multi-purpose trail that will eventually run 110 miles from Cleveland to New Philadelphia along the old Ohio & Erie Canal. Here is a summary of the latest plans to finish the northernmost section of the trail through the Flats in Cleveland to the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. (The trail now stops at Harvard Road.) This has been one of the most difficult sections to plan, as it passes through the steel mills and other potentially hazardous industrial areas (see map below). On the other hand, the mix of industry and nature could make this section of trail one of the most exciting and interesting.

Trail development agreement - October 2004

The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail presently ends at Harvard Road by steel mills in Cleveland. On October 16, 2004, public officials signed an agreement that assigns responsibilities for exending the trail about five miles northward through the Flats to a new Canal Basin Park under the Detroit-Superior Bridge. The City of Cleveland will own much of the right-of-way; the Cuyahoga County Engineer will build the trail, and the Cleveland Metroparks will operate and maintain it. The agreement was organized by Ohio Canal Corridor.

Project background and significance

The Towpath Trail has become a defining feature in the Cuyahoga Valley landscape. Constructed 175 years ago as part of the Ohio & Erie Canal, it was a simple dirt path on which to lead animals pulling canal boats. When the economically unprofitable canal finally ceased to be used after the 1913 flood, the towpath survived as a silent witness to an earlier era.

The rediscovery of the towpath began with the establishment of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in 1974. One of the major projects completed by the National Park Service was the conversion of approximately 20 miles of the towpath into a shared use trail. The success of this segment of towpath has sparked a campaign to extend the Towpath Trail to over 100 miles as a continuous journey through the federally designated Ohio & Erie National Heritage Corridor.

In addition, the heritage corridor trail will serve as the Northeast Ohio section of the State of Ohio's planned Ohio to Erie Trail. Cleveland Metroparks has completed additional segments of the Towpath Trail in its Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation, situated immediately north of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The Metroparks has completed approxiately six miles of trail, and the northern terminus of the Towpath Trail is now at old Harvard Avenue.


The preferred alignment for the segment of the Towpath Trail from old Harvard Avenue to Canal Basin Park is off-road, which is the same as the current sections of trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation. The trail would be ten-feet wide and paved with asphalt.

Wherever feasible, the goal is to have the trail as part of a swath up to fifty-feet wide that would provide an area for environmental improvements, landscape improvements, and, where needed, buffers and safety measures for adjacent property owners. The preferred alignment of the trail will co-exist with existing land uses. It does not result in the replacement of any existing businesses or housing.

The estimated cost of the trail, including land acquisition, construction, trailheads, and interpretive exhibits, is estimated at $24.5-$47.8 million. The alignment of the Towpath Trail would also add value to other projects focusing on economic developments, neighborhood revitalization, and quality of life.

Other components of the plan

  • Environmental regeneration of the surrounding landscape such as the ecological restoration of hillsides, soil enhancements, improvements to drainage patterns, constructed and enhanced wetland pockets, and creation or restoration of riparian buffers and natural edges along the river channel.
  • Visitor services and interpretive exhibits based on both the natural and cultural history of the valley.
  • Public art, to be used as a device through which to interpret the rich heritage and stories of the valley, as a method to create a sense of place. and as a way to enhance the physical improvements.

Next steps

It is projected that the preferred alignment of the Towpath Trail will be built over the next three to six years. Prior to actual construction however, a number of essential tasks must be completed, including:

  • Continuing partnership efforts to address essential trail issues such as land donation/acquisition and related public improvements
  • Developing a specific plan of federal, state, and local sources and funding to pay for preparation of final engineering work and construction.
  • Preparing applications and partnering with elected officials to secure funds.

Source: Cuyahoga County Planning Commission


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EcoCity Cleveland
3500 Lorain Avenue, Suite 301, Cleveland OH 44113
Cuyahoga Bioregion
(216) 961-5020
Copyright 2002-2004

Why stop here? The Towpath Trail, one of Northeast Ohio's best recreational amenties, now runs as far north as Harvard Road in Cleveland. Planning is underway to continue the trail north through the Flats.

Extending the Towpath Trail by the ISG steel mills will be challenging, but it will be a fascinating route that highlights and interprets Cleveland's unique industrial landscape.

The proposed Towpath Trail extension would parallel Canal Road on the east bank of the river.

Why not go all the way to here? The trail could extend all the way north to the old Coast Guard Station on the lakefront off Whiskey Island.

Related Towpath Trail links
Cuyahoga County Planning Commission
Ohio Canal Corridor
Ohio & Erie Canal Corridor Coalition
CanalWay Ohio
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association

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