It takes a long time to build a long trail.
The Ohio to Erie Trail – which will stretch from Cleveland to Cincinnati – has been in the works for decades.
And no one is quite ready to say when the off-street recreational trail will be finished, said Matthew Simpson, senior planner for Preservation Parks of Delaware, who is helping to finish off the Delaware County section.
“We’re getting closer, but no one has ever been bold enough to say, ‘It’s going to be done on that date. “There are still variables in the treatment of acquisition and construction schedules,” said Simpson.
The first cash donation to help fund the trail was made in 1991, The Columbus Dispatch reported at the time.
The project’s website – ohiotoerietrail.org – reports that as of November 2019, 274.8 miles of the trail’s potential 326 miles had been traveled.
Most, but not all, of the Delaware County section of the trail is also complete.
To help fund the remaining costs, the Friends of the Delaware County Trail held their 18th annual Community Ties Bike Tour on July 24 as a fundraiser.
DCFT board chairman William Shelby said about 250 runners participated.
“It was a great day for cycling,” he said.
The ride had route options of 31, 62, and 100 miles, as well as an eight-mile family ride, according to DCFT’s website, dcft.org.
The rides started at the Northside Fellowship Presbyterian Church, on National Highway 3 north of Westerville and passed through scenic areas, rare bird habitats and parks, DCFT said.
The 100-mile route spanned Knox County’s Heart of Ohio Trail, Shelby said, and the ride also included parts of the Carters Corner, Galena, Olive Green, and Plantation Roads.
He said about 120 runners chose the 60 or 100 mile routes.
“They are real passionate runners,” he said. “You know that because they cover the long distances.”
While the final total was not available at press time, Shelby said based on the number of runners, the event likely raised around $ 5,000.
DCFT has operated for about 20 years, he said, with the aim of raising funds to provide matching funds for grants to build trails.
The Ohio to Erie Trail runs through the southeast corner of Delaware County, Shelby said. From Sunbury, the trail runs east to the Licking County border and south through Galena and to Westerville.
Abandoned rail rights-of-way are in use for much of the Ohio to Erie Trail statewide, and the same is true in Delaware County, Simpson said.
“We have diligently acquired rights of way and slowly built trails over the past few years,” he said, adding that Preservation Parks uses grants, park district funds, contributions from groups such as DCFT and volunteer work in kind.
“Last year we built 2.5 miles and this year we’re going to build another 1.4 miles. That will bring us to Hartford Road, just outside of Sunbury,” he said.
Also next year, a 1,500 foot section between Harford Road and Sunbury will be completed.
Going forward, he said, the completed trail in Delaware County will have access points, including parking areas. In the shorter term, a parking area is planned across the county line in Licking County.
Licking and Knox counties have yet to complete short sections of the trail, he added, and when completed, the Ohio Trail in Erie will be open for a long distance north of Delaware County. .
The Ohio at Erie website has a “Plan Your Trip” link with details on how to use sections of the trail that have already been completed.