Canalway National Heritage Area celebrates 25 years

Canalway National Heritage Area celebrates 25 years

Image Credit: Submitted

The Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area team announced the celebration of its 25th anniversary.

The Ohio & Erie Canalway is a National Heritage Area designated by Congress in 1996 to preserve and celebrate the rails, trails, landscapes, towns and sites that grew up along the first 110 miles of the canal that helped America grow. Annually, more than 2.5 million Americans find their way to the 87-mile Towpath Trail running through the heart of the canalway.

The Congressional designation was given to the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area in 1996, thanks to a young solicitor in the village of Navarre, Ralph Regula.

Regula was familiar with the history of the Ohio & Erie Canal and its impact on communities in Northeast Ohio and recognized the opportunity to celebrate and interpret this legacy for future generations.

Working in partnership with Allan Simpson, a reporter with the Canton Repository, Regula advocated for the conservation, interpretation and development of the Ohio & Erie Canal with local elected officials and service organizations. Through their work and dedication, Regula and Simpson convinced the State of Ohio to deed over the canal lands in Stark County to the Stark County government.

Building on the early advocacy efforts of Regula and Simpson, Canalway Partners was founded in Cleveland to focus on the project in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, and Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition was founded in Canal Fulton to focus on Summit, Stark and Tuscarawas counties.

Since then top accomplishments of the area include the following:

—Ohio & Erie Canalway State and National Scenic Byway designation by the Ohio Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration.

—Development of over 90 miles of the multi-use Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, creating a framework that spurred the planning of over 500 miles of regional connector trails.

—Designation of the Cuyahoga River as an American Heritage River.

Co-directors of Ohio & Erie Canalway Association — who manage the Ohio & Erie Canal National Heritage Area — Dan Rice and Mera Cardenas said, “Working together, we are creating a legacy for future generations in the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area. Since 1986 we have celebrated the natural, historical and recreational resources along the historic canal from Cleveland to New Philadelphia.

“In partnership and collaboration with our neighbors, community organizations, elected officials, units of government and funders, we are developing the 101-mile Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and over 500 miles of connector trails, preserving historic buildings and conserving natural areas, and creating programming that enhances enjoyment of the area.”

Looking to the future, the team shared strategic plans that include the following:

—Completing the 101-mile Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail from Cleveland to New Philadelphia.

—The development of 500 miles of regional connector trails including the Zoar Connection Trail, Rubber City Heritage Trail, Freedom Trail, and New Philadelphia Bicycle and Connectivity Plan.

—Implementation of Canal Basin Park in Cleveland.

—Implementation of the Akron Civic Commons Lock 3 and Summit Lake Parks in Akron along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.

—Promotion of the natural, historical and recreational resources along the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area.

Visit www.ohioanderiecanalway.com.