Bob Downing

BARBERTON: Joe Polacek played a big role in Wednesday’s dedication of a new pedestrian bridge that connects the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail to downtown Barberton.

The city, the Barberton Community Foundation, Barberton schools and other partners celebrated the opening of the 120-foot-long bridge over the Tuscarawas River.

The bridge sits in the shadow of the Wooster Road Bridge that also spans active railroad tracks.

Each year, the new $550,000 bridge will bring some 300,000 bicyclists and hikers on the Towpath Trail to the southeast edge of downtown Barberton, where they can dine, shop and enjoy activities at Lake Anna Park. It also will improve Towpath access for Barberton residents.

Earlier Wednesday, the 14-year-old Polacek, a Boy Scout in Troop 110, completed a Barberton-themed kiosk on city-owned property where the bridge meets the popular trail. The wooden structure ties together old Barberton and new Barberton and features replica roof tiles from O.C. Barber’s historic Anna Dean Farm.

“It’s pretty unique and it’s something special,” he said proudly.

Leftover reddish tiles each weigh 4 pounds, and 36 were used in building the kiosk, Polacek said.

Work on building the kiosk started Friday and was wrapped up just hours before the 12:30 p.m. ceremony, he said.

Winning final approval from the city was wrapped up a week ago, after about a month of trying to determine who owned the land and what design would be acceptable, Polacek said.

Babcock & Wilcox Co. engineer Bryan Schenkenberger aided Polacek, an eighth-grader at Barberton Middle School.

Designing and building the kiosk helped Polacek earn his Eagle Scout award. He put more than 200 hours into the project.

He was hailed during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for his efforts to clean up graffiti around the new bridge and to clean up trash from the Tuscarawas River.

Four Barberton third-graders — Leanna Stilling, Matthew Lee, Royal Tucker and Jayme Brannon — were chosen from essays submitted to Barberton Mayor William Judge to help cut the ribbon at the ceremonies that attracted about 150 people.

Judge, however, missed the ceremony. His wife, Sara, gave birth about 11 a.m. Wednesday to the couple’s first child, a girl who weighed 8 pounds, 5 ounces. Father, mother and infant were all doing well, city officials said.

Getting the bridge, dubbed the Barberton Connector, built began seven years ago.

Sometimes good things take a long time to come together, said Dan Rice, president and CEO of the Akron-based Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition and one of the speakers.

The bridge weighs about 60,000 pounds and was built of self-weathering steel. The exterior of the steel rusts, and that rust protects the rest of the steel beams. It contains a slight arch.

The new bridge is a “good addition to Barberton,” said Floyd Walters, 60, of Barberton, who walks the Towpath Trail every day. “It’s something new for Barberton ... It’s exciting.”

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.