Bob Downing

BOSTON HEIGHTS: Plans for developing 10 miles of mountain biking trails in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park were greeted enthusiastically by a crowd of 55 at Wednesday’s public hearing in the park’s Happy Days Lodge.


The crowd was also happy with plans for a water trail along the Cuyahoga River with boat launches and overnight camping in northern Summit and southern Cuyahoga counties.


Those are key elements in the 390-page document that has been in the works since 2009. But a provision that calls for mountain bikes and hikers to share a section of the Buckeye Trail drew a chilly reception.


The trail plan will be the subject of a public hearing from 6:30 to 8:30 tonight at the Akron-Summit County Public Library, 60 S. High St., Akron.


A crowd of 45 attended a similar meeting Tuesday in Cuyahoga Heights.


The park is accepting public comment through Aug. 20. Go online to http://parkplanning.nps.gov/cuyahogatrailplan.


The park’s favored plan calls for adding 36 miles of new trails and eliminating or relocating up to 12 miles of trails. The price tag is $6.9 million, although no money is available.


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.


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.


The document, known as the Draft Trail Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, updates the park’s last trail report from 1985.


At present, mountain biking is banned in the 33,000-acre federal park between Akron and Cleveland.


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 also 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.


At present, camping within the park is limited to one spot in Boston Township.


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.


Lynda and Dan Kellackey of Akron said they liked the idea of the canoe trail and adding camp sites and thought keeping mountain bikes and hikers separate was a good idea. Debbie Zampini, a volunteer with the Buckeye Trail Association, said she was strongly opposed to having mountain bikes and hikers share that trail.


The park is looking at allowing shared use from Boston Mills Road in Boston Township north into Brecksville. Such a plan would require approval from Cleveland Metroparks and Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, both of whom own land along the trail.


Kevin Tuttle of Copley, an active park trail volunteer, said he would like to see the Buckeye Trail remain for hikers only.


Paul and Barb West of Stow, both equestrians, said they liked the plan, but had safety concerns if horses and mountain bikes share the same trails. Lynn Garrity, the park’s trail expert, said the park was trying to keep bikers and equestrians on separate trails as much as possible.


At present, the National Park Service has 104 miles of trails in the Cuyahoga Valley for hikers, bicyclists, cross-country skiers and equestrians. 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 bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.