Metroparks of the Toledo Area plans regional trail loop

. May 3, 2017.

The Metroparks of the Toledo Area are working to allow us to reach them in a more exercise-conscious manner by building trails in the next 10 years, with bike-paths connecting many Toledo area parks. With 150 miles of trails already available in the Metropark system, trail-building projects and increasing the number of parks bolsters the community assett.

These recreation thoroughfares show a commitment to making metropolitan Toledo a better place to live.

“We know that parks add value to communities,” said Scott Carpenter, director of public relations for the Metroparks. “If you live around a Metropark it’s going to improve your property value. We maintain them well— they’re nice, safe, clean places. These trails are no different— they’re just linear parks, providing connections and transportation corridors.”

Blazing Trails

Currently, the parks system is working with the Lucas County Commissioners to expand the University Parks Trail from King Road to Silica Road, 0.6 miles to the west, through the former King Road landfill. Seventy-five percent of the approximately $250,000 project is being covered by the Transportation Alternative Program (federal funds administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation), with a local match of 25 percent.

“Our endgame is to create connecting trails to Secor (Metropark), which is six miles away from Wildwood,” said Carpenter.

The park system is also currently working to connect Secor with Oak Openings in the southwestern part of Lucas County. This spring, work will begin between the two parks as a 1.8-mile trail is being built between Secor and Wiregrass Lake, a smaller metropark. That trail is expected to be finished in late summer. The nearly $800,000 trail will be funded with $600,000 in Clean Ohio Trail Funds, another nearly $160,000 in Transportation Alternative Program funds.

“Oak Openings is already connected to Fallen Timbers Battlefield, which is connected to Side Cut, which will follow the Anthony Wayne Trail and is going to connect up to the Chessie Circle Trail,” explained Carpenter, referring to the 11-mile trail along a railroad route reaching from the Laskey Road and Lewis Avenue intersection, south to the Maumee River. “Which connects to University Parks Trail, which connects to Wildwood and now you’ve got a full circle. So this is really is happening.”

All of these trails will be paved, opening them to not only bicyclists but dog walkers, runners, wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment.

“Toledo, Ohio also proves to be a good place to live for those who want easy access to the outdoors,” the report read. “The area’s expansive Metroparks of the Toledo Area system, which includes 15 area parks (and is affiliated with the Toledo Botanical Garden), offers residents the opportunity to camp, fish,
hike and bike.”

An additional 1.4 miles of trail will open this month from Glanzman Road south to the Maumee River, including a bridge over the Anthony Wayne Trail. Eighty percent of the $918,000 trail is being funded with TAP monies (20 percent local match).
“It’s only a mile and a half but it’s an important piece of making the whole
thing work,” Carpenter said of the Chessie, which still features an active rail line in the University of Toledo-owned portion in the middle of the north-south trail.

As the AW Trail is redone in stages, bike lanes will be added, piecing together the gap between Side Cut in Maumee and the Chessie Circle Trail.

Scott Carpenter, director of public relations for the Metroparks.

Scott Carpenter, director of public relations for the Metroparks.

Putting Toledo on the map

These expanded recreation areas could help Toledo reach quality-of-life standards of other medium-sized metropolitan areas, like: Tulsa, Oklahoma; Des Moines, Iowa; Boise, Idaho; Louisville, Kentucky; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“All of these towns are growing and have changed their image. One of the ways they’ve done that is trails and parks,” Carpenter said. “When you look at other towns, some of them have hundreds of miles of trails. In the scheme of things, what we’re doing is rather small and affordable— but with a big impact.”

Getting noticed

Some accolades have already been paid to the Glass City. Last July, U.S. News and World Report put Toledo second (Fresno, California was first) on its list of “10 Most Fun Places to Live if You Love the Outdoors.”

That recognition is affirmation that the metroparks are making a difference in the region, Carpenter admits. “That goes a long way toward helping our reputation,” he said. “It becomes more and more important (as a factor in) be(ing) a place people want to live.”

Opening new parks

In the past two years, four new parks have opened: Wiregrass Lake, Fallen Timbers Battlefield, Westwinds and Middlegrounds, near downtown. Prior to that, the newest park was Wildwood, which opened four decades ago.

“We have a goal of having a metropark within five miles of every Lucas County resident,” Carpenter said. Future parks are planned in a number of spots to achieve that goal.
Multi-purpose trails represent a solid recreational foundation to improve Toledo’s attractiveness to prospective residents and companies, according to Dave Zenk, Metroparks executive director.

“Millennials in particular (identify) bike networks, trail networks and park systems as one of the key components they look to when they decide and choose where they want to call home,” he said. “This is an important resource and tool that we have to have in our toolkit to compete to attract the talent and businesses to our area — but also providing the amenities to support the existing talent and businesses already here.”

As he looks at cities such as Des Moines, Boise and Grand Rapids, Zenk highlighted one common factor among them.

“These (competition) cities have invested heavily and aggressively in these type of projects and have used these projects as a means to change the perception of their communities on a national level,” Zenk said. “We will be nationally competitive in that regard.”

If you build it, they will come

“I’m always suspect when somebody says, ‘Build it and they will come,’ but it’s true with trails. They’re just instantly popular. Biking and kayaking are two of the fastest-growing recreation activities right now. There are times on the Wabash Cannonball Trail or the University Parks Trail where there are almost traffic jams. They’re just so busy.”
Carpenter said the loop could easily be complete by 2027.

“I think it’s probably doable for sure in the next 10 years,” he said. “In the meantime, things will be getting done, so it’s not a distant dream. We’ll see progress on that year after year.”

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