Chesapeake Energy Corp. has provided a financial boost to the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail: an $11,200 donation for a long-awaited bridge project on the Stark-Tuscarawas county line.
The grant, to the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, 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 along the Towpath Trail.
Stark County Park District personnel are directing the design and construction of the new bridge. It will be 260 feet long and 14 feet wide and could be completed within the next year, said Bob Fonte, director of the park district.
Fonte’s district expects to advertise for bids in March and award it in April. The winning contractor would have up to 18 months to complete construction, but the work might not take that long, he said.
The park district already has won approval for the bridge construction from 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 grant former U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Navarre, helped to arrange.
Stark County and Tuscarawas County each have raised $70,000 to match the federal grant.
About $35,000 of Stark’s money is coming from private foundations. Fonte said the rest will be levy-raised park district funds.
The Chesapeake grant will provide a safety net 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.
Stark County started building the trail in 1996, and the aqueduct project has been in the design stage for about the past four years, Fonte said.
“It has taken a long time. There have been a lot of issues,” he said, “but we’re excited that it’s finally happening.”
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.