Printed: July 11, 2020

More of rail-trail project to be paved

Wabash Cannonball Trail North Fork to get upgrade

BY TOM HENRY BLADE STAFF WRITER

One of Ohio’s longest rails-to-trails projects is about to get 6.14 more miles of blacktop.

By a 4-0 vote Wednesday, the Metroparks Toledo Board of Park Commissioners awarded a $2.2 million contract to Expercon LLC of Toledo to pave the trail’s North Fork between State Rte. 109 near Delta and the Lucas-Fulton county line by Aug. 31. One park commissioner, Kevin Dalton, was absent.

The new pavement will be 12 feet wide, like other parts of the trail. Besides providing a smoother surface for bicyclists and hikers, the project will provide a paved section of the 46-mile North Fork in Fulton County.

Named after the most celebrated train to use the Wabash Railroad’s tracks, the Wabash Cannonball Trail covers 63 miles of former Wabash branch lines converted into trails in parts of four northwest Ohio counties. But only nine miles of the North Fork’s 46 miles are currently paved, compared to 10 of the South Fork’s 17 miles.

The goal is to someday pave the North Fork’s entire length out to Montpelier, Ohio, in Williams County.

Metroparks Toledo is one of several partner agencies involved in the project. It is getting 95 percent of construction costs for the latest paving covered by up to $2.3 million in federal grants. The potential for that much exists because such construction projects require a 10 percent contingency.

The trail’s North and South forks converge at Jerome Road in Maumee, near the Fallen Timbers Battlefield.

Other trail surfaces vary from asphalt to hard-packed cinder ballast left over from railroad days.

The nonprofit Northwestern Ohio Rails-to-Trails Association, based in Fulton County, owns the parts of the Wabash Cannonball Trail running through Henry, Fulton, and Williams counties.

NORTA representatives in attendance at the Metroparks Toledo meeting said they were pleased by the board’s action, agreeing a lot of people are excited to see paved portions of the trail come into Fulton County.

Metroparks Toledo spokesman Scott Carpenter said the paving project is an important link in the park district’s ongoing mission of connecting northwest Ohio’s outdoor recreation.

“Now that we are closing in on our goal of placing a park within five miles of every resident of Lucas County, our focus will be on connectivity — connecting the Metroparks with each other and with neighborhoods and institutions,” Mr. Carpenter said.

The goal of making a Metropark available within five miles of every Lucas County resident began in 2012. It is expected to be accomplished next fall when the upcoming Glass City and Manhattan Marsh Preserve Metroparks open.

NORTA was created in 1994 to manage most of the trail system after the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments purchased two abandoned rail lines in Lucas, Fulton, Henry, and Williams counties from Norfolk Southern Railroad, the Wabash’s corporate successor.

The North Fork opened in 2001. The South Fork opened two years later.

Contact Tom Henry at

thenry@theblade.com,

419-724-6079, or

via Twitter @ecowriterohio.