A proposed east-west bicycle trail across the Mahoning Valley that would connect the Stavich Bike Trail at Lowellville to the Portage Hike and Bike Trail at Ravenna is starting to roll.
A meeting to raise awareness of the project will take place Friday evening on the second floor of the Knox Building, downtown. It is being presented by Jacob Harver, part owner of The Federal restaurant and bar on the first floor of The Knox Building.
The Eastgate Regional Council of Governments had already begun looking into the trail as part of its Mahoning River Corridor plan and is open to ideas offered by community members, said Jason Mondok, a planner for the agency. Eastgate has hired MS Consultants to draw up plans for the river project, which can be viewed here. The plans were unveiled by the agency at its May 6 meeting.
Harver, who is pursuing a master’s degree in American studies at Youngstown State University, has taken on the project – which he has dubbed the Mahoning Movement – as part of his academic requirements. But it’s also something that means a lot to him.
Harver is an avid cyclist who regularly takes long-distance rides. In the past few years, he has bicycled from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.; St. Louis to Kansas City; and Youngstown to Cincinnati.
“I’ve always dreamt about how the Youngstown area could be better networked [with bike trails],” he said.
The Mahoning-Trumbull section he is advocating for is one of two significant missing links that would make a continuous bike trail from Washington, D.C., to Cincinnati, according to Harver.
The Mahoning Valley bike trail would run along the paths of abandoned rail lines and even some long-gone cargo canals from the 19th century, as well as existing roadways through parks and municipalities.
The cost would vary and depends largely on the type of paving, which could range from crushed limestone to asphalt. Stressing that the project is in its earliest of stages, Harver estimates a ballpark figure cost of $25 million. He is hopeful that money could be included in President Biden’s infrastructure improvement plans.
Harver was just getting started on the project when he learned of Eastgate’s efforts, which he said “gives it more legitimacy than just me pushing it.”
One of the preliminary plans by ms consultants has the path extending along the Mahoning River from Lowellville to downtown Youngstown, turning south through Mill Creek Park, then west into Canfield and north via the existing north-south Western Reserve Greenway Trail into Niles, where it will take a new path that roughly follows the Mahoning River through Warren, Leavittsburg, Braceville and into Portage County.
The new trail would be 45 miles long. Harver would like it to have markers along its route to identify and offer information about historical sites along the way.
Friday’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m. on the second floor of The Knox Building, 110 W. Federal St., downtown (enter through The Federal). Admission is free.
Harver is also planning to make a film that outlines the proposal. Attendees at Friday’s meeting can contribute money to the film project in person or online here. A rudimentary draft of Harver’s proposed bike trail can also be found at the website.
Guests at the meeting will include filmmaker and comedian Matt O’Nesti; Mercy Health community health educator Jessica Romeo; Zachary Felger, co-chairman of the public use committee of Friends of the Mahoning River; and several elected officials.
Harver is a board member of Friends of the Mahoning River, and a member of Friends of the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry. Eastgate’s Mondok said his organization is “happy to see people who are thinking creatively about trail connections.”
Harver’s plan, he said, can be incorporated into the organization’s conceptual proposal. Eastgate’s bike path is part of its larger Mahoning River Corridor Revitalization Plan.
“It’s an exciting project and there is definitely a need for it,” Mondok said.
The river corridor plan calls for removing about a dozen dams along the Mahoning River and making it more inviting for recreational use.
Mondok confirmed that the corridor plan is in its earliest stages and no cost estimates have been obtained. Funding, he said, would need to come from several park districts and governmental sources.
“It’s quite a way off before this gets moving,” Mondok said. “But for us at Eastgate, the best way to move forward is to have the local community get engaged with the idea and then come to us. We are happy to talk them through it, to identify a need and then propose a solution.”
Originally published by the Business Journal - Youngstown Publishing Co.