Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition

If a trail is a path, what is it a path to? From Point A to Point B? Better health? More green space? All of these are reasons that a coalition of trail advocates aim to complete and connect 1,400 miles of trails.

The Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition envisions a network of multi-use trails that connect communities across a 48-county swath of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The system is 53 percent complete and includes the renowned Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). This 150-mile trail has demonstrated that trails are significant economic generators. Over $40 million in direct annual spending is attributed to GAP trail users, with overnight visitors spending an average of $114 a day. This kind of spending means a lot to rural and post-industrial communities, or to any community for that matter.

Now, let’s frame the GAP and its $40 million in direct annual spending as just the beginning. That’s what the Regional Trail Coalition has done. The goal is to work together to connect the trails by 2033, and to position the region to benefit from what will become the most significant network of connected trails in North America.

The Coalition is made up of 19 signed entities, including trail groups, non-profits, private foundations, and the National Park Service. Major efforts include collecting and updating geographic information systems (GIS) line work, fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration, and offering marketing, advocacy, and implementation assistance in support or trail development.

Applying for a $5.7 million Federal TIGER grant propelled the project forward in 2014. While the competitive grant was not received, the coalition partners now know much more about the regional system and impediments to trail development.

A recent connectivity analysis has uncovered tremendous opportunities. For example, with the completion of a .6 mile gap south of Oil City, 62 miles of trails can become continuously linked together.

March 8, 2016

Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition 2015 Annual Report

IHTC report coverCheck out the 2015 Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition Annual Report!

The report provides an overview of all of the Coalition’s work across four states in order to reach its vision of 1,400 miles of interconnected trail.

From corridor meetings and updates to resources helping build IHTC trail, along with numerous “success stories” from across the four-state trail, the Report is a comprehensive overview of IHTC’s progress throughout the last year.


September 2, 2015

Cleveland to Erie Corridor Meets for the First Time

On April 10, Andrea Irland of the National Park Service – Rivers, Trails, Conservation Assistance program invited a who’s who of planners and advocates along the shores of Lake Erie to discuss the vision of how to connect these communities by trails.

Within the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition, this is the last mega-corridor to come together, moving our goal of 1,600 connected-miles that much closer to reality. What we learned is that although this east-west connection might be a new idea, there are already many efforts gaining traction that make this goal a realistic vision.

Both the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are working on a bicycle master plan that is looking at connections to the eastern suburbs. The city of Mentor and Lake County are looking at some large development projects that will make it possible for people to bike to the Mentor Headlands and Fairport Harbor Beach, some of the most popular lake destinations for Northeast Ohio and relatively inaccessible by bike. Ashtabula County is also working hard to reward the county voters who voted to support trails last year.

Crossing into Pennsylvania, the conversation turned toward how to make an already designated scenic byway along Route 5 more accommodating for cyclists, as this will take people into the city of Erie and some already existing trail networks.

These type of initial discussions are the spark that makes this coalition possible. As part of the leadership team, it’s my role at PEC to keep these conversations going, transitioning the dream lines on a map into quantifiable steps that will move the project forward, slowly but surely. We have 18 years to reach our goal but every conversation like this one held in Geneva moves us just that little bit closer to the end.

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