Mill Creek Metro Parks Bikeway, photo by Mill Creek Metro Parks
Key stakeholders representing long-distance, multi trail groups in the region met recently and agreed on a vision for the regional trail network. The vision? A connected trail system in 46 counties by 2033.
According to Amy Camp, regional trail network manager, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, the next steps are understanding the obstacles to trail completion and what needs to be done to finish some of the region's long-distance trails and some of the shorter trails that connect them, as well as continuing to build collaboration among stakeholders.
The recent planning meeting, a follow-up to the Forks of the Ohio Symposium held in March 2013, focused on a preliminary planning document for a multi-state, regional trail network that includes incorporating the award-winning trail-based economic development model developed by The Progress Fund. A plan for trail completion is expected to be produced by December 2013 based on: the organizational capacity of local trail associations; the feasibility of gaining access to the right corridors; and economic potential for those communities that fall within the yet-to-be completed trail segments. In early 2014, the focus will be on cost analysis and fund development for completing critical gaps in the trail network.
The initiative to create a comprehensive regional trail network has expanded beyond the initial Power of 32 counties in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio. The expanded regional map for this initiative includes 46 counties because of the economic potential of linking Cleveland and Erie to Pittsburgh, Maryland and Washington D.C.
It's possible that someday the map will be expanded further.
"It's easy when you look at a map that some of our trails connect to trails in Buffalo and on to Toronto," points out Camp. "If we focus on getting our trail system complete and there are other people in nearby regions doing the same thing, it becomes conceivable to image a trail network that connects a lot of parts of the country."