A total of 46 miles of new trails, including 10 miles for mountain biking, could be added under a plan being considered by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Mountain biking is now banned in the 33,000-acre federal park.
Also proposed is a water trail with boat launches and overnight camping spots along the Cuyahoga River in Summit and Cuyahoga counties.
The 390-page document, in the works since 2009, will be the subject of three public meetings this month in Akron, Boston Heights and Cuyahoga Heights.
The plan is expected to be finalized by the end of the year and be submitted to the National Park Service’s Omaha regional office. It will update the park’s last trail report from 1985.
The document, known as the Draft Trail Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, analyzes eight options that ranged from doing nothing to adding 65 miles of trails.
The new report outlines Alternative 5, the park’s preferred option. It calls for adding 46 miles of trails and eliminating or relocating up to 12 miles of trails.
It carries a price tag of $6.9 million, although no money is earmarked for trail work, said Paul Stoehr, the park’s deputy superintendent.
Alternative No. 5 is a hybrid plan that draws on elements from other alternatives, and park officials are confident that it would best meet the park’s needs, Stoehr said.
Money for the trail work could come from the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a grass-roots group, through its Trails Forever program. Money also could come from the National Park Service and Congress.
The document is designed to be a blueprint to cover the expansion, restoration, management, operations and use of the trail system and related amenities over the next 15 years.
Trail development is a balancing act, because some people want more trails, while others want peace and quiet in the park, Stoehr said. The document contains hundreds of suggestions and the report itself is “very, very complex,” he said.
Under the new plan, mountain biking would be permitted north of state Route 303 and west of the Bike & Hike Trail in Boston Heights and on a section of the west rim of the valley in Boston Township.
The biking area would include the edges of the one-time Krejci toxic-waste dump in Northfield Center and Boston townships, which the park service has cleaned up.
The area for mountain biking would extend south of state Route 303 into Boston Township and Cuyahoga Falls along the valley’s east rim.
The trails would be narrow with natural surfaces.
Three launches for kayaks and canoes are proposed on the Cuyahoga River in Cuyahoga Falls, Brecksville and Independence-Valley View. Additional sites are possible.
The plan also calls for developing up to seven small camping areas for hikers, bicyclists and paddlers.
Currently, boating on the river is permitted but not encouraged in the park because of bacteria problems from Akron’s sewer overflows. The park is anticipating that water quality will improve in coming years, Stoehr said.
Camping within the park has been limited to one spot in Boston Township.
The water trail along the Cuyahoga River with launches and camping reflects a major shift and one that the park is embracing, spokeswoman Mary Pat Doorley said.
A proposed water trail on the Cuyahoga in Summit, Portage, Geauga and Cuyahoga counties is under study by the Friends of the Crooked River, a grass-roots group involved in the Cuyahoga River, and other partners.
Among the 11 proposed new hiking trails are:
• The High Meadow Trail, a new 3.1-mile trail west of Blue Hen Falls off Boston Mills Road in Boston Township.
• The 1.2-mile Armington Trail Connector Loop off Quick Road on the Cuyahoga Falls/Boston Township border.
• The Mudcatcher Loop, a 3-mile circuit west of Chaffee Road and north of state route 82 in Sagamore Hills Township. It would descend a ravine that drops to the Cuyahoga River.
• South Carriage Loop Trail, a 3-mile loop off the Old Carriage Trail south of state Route 82 in Sagamore Hills Township.
• Columbia Trail, a 1.3-mile hiking trail from the Columbia picnic area to the Buckeye Trail in Boston Township.
• Five Falls Trail, a 1.5-mile trail and connection to Brandywine Falls in Sagamore Hills Township.
The plan contains a dozen new short interpretive hiking trails. That includes a short boardwalk for bird-watchers at the grasslands at the old Coliseum site in Richfield Township and short trails to the Cuyahoga River from the Ira Trailhead and the Hunt Farm Visitor Information Center, both in Cuyahoga Falls.
The report calls for improving 10 trailhead parking areas and building four parking lots to provide trail access.
Strengthening trail connections is definitely part of the plan, Stoehr said.
The plan also calls for limited expansion of bridle trails, while improving facilities and existing trails for equestrians.
That includes a rerouting of the Perkins and Riding Run Trails in Boston, Richfield and Bath townships.
The plan also encourages the park to work with local communities to add 37 miles of bike lanes to roads through the park.
A key element of the new plan is sustainable trail guidelines for trail development, operations and maintenance, Stoehr said.
Many of the Cuyahoga Valley trails were built decades ago and require heavy maintenance, he said.
A number of small trail segments would be abandoned. The reasons include the presence of rare plants and wetlands, too many stream crossings, low use and steep slopes.
The plan calls for eliminating up to 11 miles of trails.
At present, the National Park Service has 97 miles of trails in the Cuyahoga Valley for hikers, bicyclists, cross-country skiers and equestrians.
That includes the Towpath Trail, the Buckeye Trail and the Valley Bridle Trail, plus 11 small, localized trail systems. Access is via 25 trailheads and four visitor centers.
The park contains 175 miles of trails with additional trails operated by Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, and Cleveland Metroparks.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or email@example.com.