Chesapeake Energy Corp. has provided a financial boost to the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.
The Oklahoma-based energy company has donated $11,200 to the Akron-based Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition for a long-awaited bridge project on the Stark-Tuscarawas county line.
The grant will help fund the $900,000 replacement of an old aqueduct that once carried the canal over the Tuscarawas River on the popular trail that stretches from Cleveland through Akron to New Philadelphia.
The pedestrian bridge is one of the key missing links on the Towpath Trail.
Designing and building the new bridge is being directed by the Stark County Park District.
The bridge — 260 feet long and 14 feet wide — will likely be completed within the next year, said Bob Fonte, director of the Stark County Park District.
His district expects to advertise for bids in March and to award a bid in April with the winning contractor likely to have up to 18 months to complete the construction, but the work may not take that long, he said.
The park district has already won approval for the bridge construction from federal and state agencies: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
The project will be funded with about $760,000 in leftover federal funds from a previous federal grant arranged by former U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Navarre.
In addition, Stark County and Tuscarawas County have each raised $70,000 in money to match the federal grant.
Stark County got about $35,000 from private foundations and will fund the rest with levy-raised park district funds, Fonte said.
The Chesapeake grant will provide insurance in case of additional expenses, said Dan Rice, president and CEO of the canalway group.
It marks the first time that Chesapeake has donated to the popular Towpath Trail, he said.
The aqueduct project has been in the works for years, Fonte said.
Stark County started building the trail in 1996 and the aqueduct has been in the design stage for the last four years, he said.
"It’s taken a long time. There have been a lot of issues. But we’re excited that it’s finally happening," he said.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
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