The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail first arrived into Summit County 22 years ago.
In May 1990, the National Park Service began building the popular trail of crushed limestone that stretches 19.7 miles in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It had been envisioned in 1977.
The trail section between West Highland Road in Sagamore Hills Township and West Boston Mills Road in Boston Township was the first section completed. Other trail segments opened as they were completed. The completed trail was officially dedicated in 1993. It then grew south through Akron to Stark and Tuscarawas counties and north to Cleveland.
Now trail organizers are holding a major celebration on Saturday to mark the completion of the trail from border to border in Summit County.
The Summit Towpath 2012 party includes events all day along the trail, to be topped by 6 p.m. ceremonies and an 8:30 p.m. concert by the Guthrie Family Reunion at Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron.
Anyone participating in one of the trail events will get a free ticket to the Saturday concert by Arlo Guthrie and his children celebrating family patriarch Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday. Also performing will be Hey Mavis at 7 p.m.
Saturday’s festivities are part of a year-long trail celebration by the city of Akron, Summit County, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Ohio & Erie Canalway, the Cascade Locks Park Association, the Summit County Historical Society, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and Metro Parks, Serving Summit County.
In Summit County, the trail is complete for 41.1 miles from Sagamore Hills Township south through Akron and Barberton to Clinton.
Summit County is the first county to complete the entire length of the bike-and-hike trail within its boundaries.
Stark, Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas counties are still working on their trail sections. The trail will be 110 miles in length when completed. An estimated $93 million has been spent to build the 81 miles of trail that are complete. It gets 2.5 million visitors annually.
“Getting the trail done in Summit County is huge, a major accomplishment, that was only accomplished through the partnerships of all the parties involved,” said Dan Rice, president and chief executive officer of the Akron-based Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition and co-director of the Ohio & Erie Canalway.
The completion of the trail will be marked by a root beer toast involving trail partners and the public at Lock 3 Park. It will be led by a costumed Capt. Richard Howe, an engineer on the old canal, at 8:15 p.m.
Key participants will parade to the park from the Richard Howe House in West Exchange St., starting at 6:30 p.m.
The ceremonies at 8:05 p.m. include saluting six individuals for their longtime support of the trail: Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, Summit County Executive Russ Pry, Akron’s Frances Seiberling Buchholzer, retired businessman Ed Metzger, Allan Krulak of Forest City Enterprises and Terry Bishop of Dominion East Ohio.
The six will be hailed as the first members of a trail hall of fame: the Dominion Locktenders Circle, Rice said.
The Summit County Historical Society is collecting materials to be placed in a Towpath Trail time capsule that will be stored for 41 years until 2053.
Free commemorative Summit Towpath 2012 decals will also be distributed during the day.
For more information, call 330-374-5657 or check out www.ohioanderiecanalway.org.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.