Happy trails for Kent cyclists

Tim Jacobs

Portage County Bike Trail nears completion

Kent cyclists will have a new reason to dust their bicycles off and oil their chains by the end of the year.

The Portage County Hike and Bike Trail is nearing completion. John Idone, director of the Kent Parks and Recreation Department, said the majority of the work on the long-term project is scheduled for completion Nov. 15.

Idone said the city gained almost $1 million in state and federal grants.

The trail is a collaboration between Kent Parks and Recreation, Ravenna Parks and Recreation, the Portage County Park District, Kent State University and neighboring townships and other entities.

“All the neighboring townships have supported the project, particularly Franklin Township, which has put up matching money to put up parts of the trail,” Idone said.

Eventually, the trail will serve as an east to west junction for other trails in Ohio.

“We’re calling this the ‘H Connector,’ which would be the center part of that ‘H’ connecting the Ohio and Erie canal corridor that runs from Cleveland ultimately to Cincinnati,” Idone said. “It would then cut across the county to the east and link up with a north-south trail called the Lakes to Rivers Trail which goes from Erie to the Ohio River.”

Another section of the trail that will span from the city limits west through Tallmadge and eventually to Akron is planned to be finished in 2012. Idone said another part of the project, which will run from East Crain avenue to Riverbend Park, is currently up for bid and should be completed by Oct. 1 this year.

Michael Bruder, director of design and construction for the Office of the University Architect, said the university is also wrapping up its bike trail project, by extending the Esplanade along South Lincoln Street to East Main Street. The university’s portion of the trail spans from the University Esplanade all the way across campus to Dix Stadium.

“(The trail) goes back through the woods and through our wetlands,” Bruder said. “There are sections of the trail that are actually boardwalk because the soil was too soft for paving.”

While Bruder and Idone said the purpose of the trail is to improve pedestrian and cyclist transportation both on campus and in the city, the two sections of the trail also have slightly different purposes.

Bruder said the university’s section of the trail is meant to improve traffic across campus and to connect the campus to the surrounding area so students aren’t dependent on having a car.

Idone said the city’s portion of the trail is not only for transportation, but also to encourage commerce downtown and make Kent a more desirable place to live.

“We think, once the trail is complete, that it will have tremendous economic benefits, not only in bringing people to downtown Kent to go shopping, go out to eat, enjoy Riveredge Park, but I think we’ll generate some businesses that will cater to these people interested in cycling, so I would anticipate a bicycle shop,” he said.

Idone also said the community has been very supportive of the trail.

“Bike trails are a very popular thing, certainly an amenity people are looking for when they’re looking to purchase a home,” he said.

The Kent (Student) Bike Club

Senior anthropology major Beth Lomske sat at the Home Savings Plaza waiting for the rest of the Kent Bike Club members to show up for their weekly ride. The group, an official organization recognized by the university since last fall, is loosely organized, but people show up every week.

“On the really organized rides, we usually get 15 people,” Lomske said. “In the summer, it’s not that organized. We usually meet and ride until about 7 (p.m.).”

Lomske said the group, at the moment, is all students, although anyone is welcome to ride with them.

“We don’t get older cyclists,” Lomske said. “We intend it for everyone, but it’s usually only students who show up.”

Lomske said the group’s future plan is to open a bicycle co-op, where students can get help with repair, swap parts and stories and eventually rent bicycles. She said it will be a donation-based organization when they get it off the ground “hopefully around August.”

The Kent Bike Club meets every Friday at 5 p.m. at the Home Savings Plaza in downtown Kent. Any student or resident is welcome to show up.

Contact general assignment reporter Tim Jacobs at [email protected].