Towpath Ribbon Cutting Celebrates Completion with Tremont Community

By Michael Jankus

TREMONT — Tremonsters turned out in droves to witness the ribbon cutting for Stage 4 of the Towpath Trail at historic Camp Cleveland at 2 p.m. on a hot and sunny June 9 that was forecasted to bring rain.

The Civil War landmark, located at the northernmost end of West 10th Street and the corner of University Road, overlooks the sweeping Cleveland skyline, serving as the perfect setting and backdrop for such a significant occasion. The Camp Cleveland site is commemorated by new historical elements as part of Stage 4 in addition to the Towpath Trail, in honor of its importance.

Canalway Partners brought 35 years of dreaming and planning to realization on Wednesday afternoon, and shared a vision of a bright future in a place with a rich and winding history. Where President James A. Garfield once worked as a canalman along the mule trail, local walkers, kayakers, cyclists, birders, canoers, and joggers will forge a history of their own for generations to come.

“That’s why we’re here,” said Chris Ronayne, chair of Canalway Partners and president of University Circle Inc., “to interpret the heritage of the place from which we come, here in Cuyahoga Valley.”

The Canalway Partners’ mission is to create a park system along the route of the historic Ohio Canal, promote historic preservation and interpretation, and expand recreational opportunities for everyone along the nearly 100 miles of National Heritage Area across four counties that is home to the Towpath Trail as well as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 

“This has been an overnight success 30 years in the making,” Ronayne said. “$54 million later — that is the stretch from Harvard Road to Canal Basin Park, right at the center of the Flats — $54 million made it possible through a lot of hands that worked to make it happen.”

Freddy Collier Jr., director of Cleveland City Planning Commision, shared his personal perspective and how his passion for cycling makes the completion of Towpath Trail Stage 4 exciting for him as both a city official and as a resident.

“When people see us as officials . . . they tend to forget that we are residents first,” Collier Jr. said. “[Cycling on the Towpath Trail] introduced a different world to me, and when it introduced that world to me, it became addictive. And now my family, my children, all of us — we ride regularly.”

“Through those relationships that I established at city planning, it introduced a world to me that I now can share with my kids, and we share with our friends. This Towpath Trail is much more about connecting people than connecting places and opportunities,” he said.

In attendance in his high visibility cycling outfit, with bicycle in hand, was Brooke Willis, a Tremont resident since 1994. He is a regular on the local trails and appreciates the ongoing dedication to improving the quality of life for local residents.

“I use these paths all the time, and I just love that more connections are being made every few months,” Willis said. “It’s just amazing.”

Willis lives only a few blocks from the corner of West 10th Street and University Road and said he uses the trails for exercise as well as getting around the city.

“It’s just fantastic to have all these trails so close to where I live, and get me anywhere I want to go, get some exercise and see things I haven’t seen before, which is very cool.”

The Towpath Trail is like a spine, connecting neighborhoods to each other and to new opportunities. As it branches out, it continues to increase the quality of life for everyone it touches, serving as both a place for activity and community.

The Executive Director of Canalway Partners, Mera Cardenas, said that one of the opportunities created by the Towpath Trail is to revitalize sites like Camp Cleveland and “to make a place more authentic, to make it more part of the community.”

The Canalway Partners will continue connecting people and celebrating Northeast Ohio’s national heritage, said Chair Chris Ronayne.

“We are the interpretive partner,” Ronayne said, “that helps interpret stories like this, like Camp Cleveland, and with nodes all along the Towpath — from here all the way down to New Philadelphia — about why this place of national heritage matters.”

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