Monday, January 19, 2009

Steelyard Commons Towpath Trail brouhaha

An article in yesterday's Plain Dealer cites several negative opinions about the design of the new Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail segment through the Steelyard Commons shopping plaza. One critic compares the fenced-in section behind the plaza to a "cattle chute," while another points out the lack of trees and other greenery.

Personally, I think they do raise some valid points, but the first time I rode this trail, none of that occurred to me. I just reveled in the fact that a new trail connection had finally been finished, and I think it was a great example of the public-private partnership that is needed for more projects like this. I kind of sympathize with the developer in saying that it's a good example of how "no good deed goes unpunished."

We're talking about an area that was formerly a steel mill that is now a strip mall. It's not part of the National Park, nor a part of the Metroparks, so I was not expecting to see a lot of trees, greenery, deer scampering next to me, and bald eagles soaring overhead. They made some attempt, with the vintage machinery and interpretive displays, to incorporate the history of the area.

I could be pursuaded to agree with the critics about the safety of the fenced-in area. It does not give you a lot of bail-out room should there be a lot of trail traffic, or if you should happen to see any unsavory-looking human characters hanging out and waiting for you up ahead. I can see how the adjacent railroad has valid safety concerns, but the need to separate us from the truck traffic on the other side was probably a design decision made by the insurance company more so than anyone else.

That same section, when riding south, also just ends abruptly, and you have to walk through a short patch of grass and dirt, then hop off of a curb, in order to re-join the road. I realize that this was probably because this section will eventually be connected to an as-yet-uncompleted section that will connect to Harvard Road to the south, but they could have provided a more smooth temporary transition in the meantime.

When heading north from Harvard and Jennings roads, the connetion to the mid-plaza loop is seemless and well-designed, and provides good access to the stores and restaurants.

What do you think?


  1. I think that on a bright sunny day I'd just be happy to be out there on the trail. But at night or caught in a sudden thunderstorm I'd really hate being trapped between two fences. Maybe the city or parks can work with the developer to replace the fence on his side. The developer has to be given credit for building the trail, that was huge. But now the rest of the interested parties (us) needs to kick in and get involved to make some improvements. Seems simple enough.

  2. I agree the fence could be a little shocking during a lightening storm, but it's a trail in the right direction!