Bike trails are another step toward the new Kent

Alyssa Sparacino

Two additions to the Portage Hike and Bike Trail are set for completion this fall and will connect Kent State with the Kent community and other surrounding areas.

The first project stretches a little more than one mile from the existing Fred Fuller Park walking trail to the Cuyahoga River. A bridge will also be added for people to continue their exercise across the river to where the trail will end at Middebury Road.

The other 1.3-mile segment will connect Crain Avenue to River Bend Boulevard, near Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent.

From there, the Portage County Park District will take over, adding a connecting piece of trail, about 1.8 miles, which will meet with the existing trail from Lake Rockwell Road into Ravenna.

Kent Parks and Recreation operates on property tax levies, but John Idone, Kent Parks and Recreation executive director, said that the minimal cost to citizens is greatly outweighed by the predicted health and economic benefits.

“Having these quality of life amenities are good for economic development,” Idone said. “Companies looking to relocate in an area look for things like this.”

The more challenging segment is also the most expensive, Idone said, talking about the $1.4 million Cuyahoga River addition.

“We’re extending the trail a little more than a mile, but this was a major undertaking,” he said.

The difficulties are because of the location of the wastewater treatment plant, which backs up to the river, forcing developers to construct a 600-foot boardwalk, Idone said. For support, 176 35-foot-long telephone poles were turned upside down and driven 20 feet into the river’s ground.

The Crain Avenue addition was less costly, at about $200,000, but is just as crucial to the overall development of the trail, Idone added.

As the economy continues to struggle, Idone and others involved in this multi-community project see the hike and bike trail as an infrastructure that will bring business to areas that may have been overlooked otherwise.

“This gives more people the opportunity to come to Kent for a few hours and maybe go to a restaurant or a store to purchase something,” Idone said.

Christine Craycroft, executive director of the Portage Park District, says hike and bike trails are becoming more popular every year, and she said she knows of several people already commuting on existing trails.

“This is going to be great for the Portage County community,” she said, “as well as bringing in visitors and tourism.”

The existing trail that stretches from Lake Rockwell Road to Ravenna ends near the property of Beckwith Orchards in Franklin Township. Owner Sally Beckwith said this trail, which has been in place for about three years, brought a jump in activity to her orchard, and she is already seeing the same trend with the connecting piece to River Bend Boulevard.

“The new trail is already paved halfway to us,” she said. “Just in the last week we’ve had more people riding in from downtown Kent than we have ever seen before. Also, this weekend we had regular customers ride in on their bikes.”

Tom Euclide, executive director of Facilities Planning and Operations department for Kent State, has also collaborated on the overall project for the Portage Hike and Bike Trail and has seen changes in campus atmosphere since the trail that runs through campus to Dix Stadium was developed.

“This year alone the number of bikes, I would have to guess, have increased about fivefold,” Euclide said, adding that 10 new bike racks will be placed throughout campus to accommodate the heavy bike traffic.

Contact public affairs reporter Alyssa Sparacino at [email protected].