The Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, has broken ground on the construction of the multi-purpose Freedom Trail, which will run between Kent and Akron.
The trail, on land owned by the Metro Regional Transit Authority, will follow an unused railroad corridor. It starts at the Portage Hike and Bike Trail in Kent and connects to the Tallmadge Trail and continues west to the Towpath Trail via a linkage at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Rail's Northside Station in downtown Akron.
Akron, Kent, Munroe Falls, Stow and Tallmadge will all connect by the end of the three-phase project. A $1.1-million contract for the first phase of the bike and hike path was awarded to Akron-based Kenmore Construction Company. The construction of the project will include the eastern section of the trail from Southwest Avenue in Tallmadge to Middlebury Road near the Portage County line and the Kent/Tallmadge border, which is slightly more than four miles.
"Multi-trails have become popular, and this is a really cool project that will serve the community," said Paul Wilkerson, chief of planning and development at the Metro Parks, Serving Summit County. "The trail is an opportunity to use an unused rail corridor and provide linkage for the community and even Kent State University and The University of Akron students."
The Federal Highway Administration awarded the Parks a $700,000 grant through the Transportation Enhancement Fund, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources awarded a $250,000 grant through the Clean Ohio Trails Fund for the project. Phases two and three are currently projected to cost another $5.5 million.
Wilkerson said there aren't any major foreseeable roadblocks for the project, and the process should be straightforward, with the exception of navigating the intersection in Tallmadge. However, he added that construction of the trail won't create extreme disruptions for traffic.
"This trail is a recreational opportunity, while also connecting existing and future trails to urban centers, giving people the opportunity for enhanced transportation," Wilkerson said. "It will enhance the transportation of past bike and hike trails, which were remote and separate from urban areas."
The trail is named for Freedom Township in Portage County. Originally, the rail line went through Freedom Township and it was called Freedom Secondary Railroad.
Expected completion for the first phase of the Freedom Trail is December of this year, while phase two will begin sometime between 2013 and 2014. Phase two will construct the trail from Southwest Avenue to Eastwood Avenue in Akron.
For more information, visit www.summitmetroparks.org.