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When Cuyahoga County Probate Court Judge Anthony J. Russo started 2011 by appointing entrepreneur Dan T. Moore III to the Cleveland Metroparks Board, he cited Moore's knowledge of the Towpath Trail as one key factor.
The original Towpath Trail -- constructed 175 years ago as part of the Ohio & Erie Canal -- was a simple dirt path on which mules walked to tow canal boats. The modern-day version is a multi-purpose trail of asphalt and crushed limestone open to hikers, cyclists and, in some sections, horseback riders.
When completed, the trail will stretch 101 miles from the Lake Erie shore in Cleveland to New Philadelphia. More than 80 miles are done. Obstacles including railroad tracks and industrial contamination have made it difficult to complete the remaining fragments in Cleveland, Akron and Barberton.
Moore, who rides the trail regularly, called it "a wonderful, magical and phenomenal resource.
"Unfortunately," he said, "it's taken more time to complete the Towpath Trail than it did to build the Canal, and that's tragic. We need to cut through the politics. I think less talk and more doing is a good idea."
That caught the attention of PolitiFact Ohio. We knew that completing the Towpath Trail became more of a marathon than a walk in the park. But has it really taken longer to complete than it took to build the original canal?
We thought it might be a good time for a brief history lesson.
The Ohio & Erie Canal was 308 miles long. Its main channels were 26 feet wide at the base and 40 feet wide at the water line.
It was built before the steam shovel was invented, so to construct the canal, laborers had to chop a path through the forest and then dig it using picks, shovels and wheelbarrows.
The work started in 1825. It was finished in 1832 -- or, says the Ohio Historical Commission, "by 1833."
The National Park Service started work on the Towpath Trail in the mid-1980s, a decade after President Gerald Ford signed the bill establishing the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area. The trail’s first segment -- a stretch through the park of nearly 20 miles -- opened in 1993.
Completion of the trail in Cuyahoga County is now scheduled for 2014, according to the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission. The Cleveland Metroparks will handle day-to-day maintenance and security for the trail, and city of Cleveland will own the land under it.
The Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition says its goal is to complete the full Towpath Trail, from Cleveland to New Philadelphia, by 2020.
Adding it all up, work on the Towpath Trail started no later than 1990. The portion within Cuyahoga County -- which is the portion involving Cleveland Metroparks -- is scheduled to be finished in 2014. That’s a span of 24 years.
Construction of the canal that the original towpath once serviced took seven years.
We rate Moore’s statement as True.
The Plain Dealer, "Dan T. Moore III appointed as a Cleveland Metroparks commissioner, replacing Fred Rzepka," Jan 4, 2011
Cuyahoga County Planning Commission, "Towpath Trail & Greenway Extension"
Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, "The Towpath Trail"
Answers.com, "steam shovel"
National Park Service, "Construction and Operation of the Ohio & Erie Canal"
Ohio Historical Society, Ohio History Central, "Ohio and Erie Canal"
National Park Service, Ohio’s National Park
Plain Dealer, "101-mile Towpath Trail needs only a few links," Jan. 26, 2010
Plain Dealer, "Contaminated land a hurdle for Towpath Trail," May 19, 2010
Plain Dealer, "Purchase of land in Cleveland's Flats clears way for new section of Towpath Trail," July 30, 2010
Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, Towpath Trail 2020
Akron Beacon Journal, "Radioactive soil among obstacles," Nov. 14, 2010
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