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Happy trails to you

Andy Ouriel • Aug 28, 2013 at 2:40 PM

Crews should complete the Lake Shore Electric Railway Trail within a couple of weeks.

Before work began a month ago, shrubbery, weeds and other material infested the area, obstructing people from safely traversing the corridor. This week, however, workers continued clearing and fortifying the 1.25-mile pathway.


Spanning through the woods, the 20-foot-wide trail runs parallel along U.S. 6, stretching from Huron High School to Woodlands Intermediate School. The passageway’s built for all sorts of travelers, including bicyclists, joggers, dog walkers and children coming home from school.


There’s even direct access off the trail into nearby subdivisions.


And if an emergency occurs, police cruisers and ambulances can maneuver into and through the area to capture or rescue someone.


“We’re really excited about this development,” said Huron city manager Andy White, who spearheaded the pathway’s inception. White ideally envisions connecting the path to sidewalks currently getting built on Rye Beach Road, where an ongoing street widening project’s occurring. Eventually, people can walk uninterrupted on a path from BGSU Firelands to Fabens Park by accessing sidewalks, walkways and the trail — all the while avoiding crossing traffic.


“If feels like one comprehensive, coordinated system,” White said. “This is to benefit the community, and we hope we draw more people here because of this.”


The bike path’s estimated cost totals $240,000, breaking down with about:

• $200,000 coming from Huron Township government funds.

• $40,000 from city funds.


History lesson

City officials transformed a century-old railroad corridor to build a new path. A railroad line, previously catering to freight trains and trolley lines decades ago, traveled to Cleveland and Toledo, making stops in smaller cities, such as Sandusky and Fremont, along the way.


Many people also zipped across the line to access Cedar Point.


Lake Shore Electric Railway Trail features

• 1.25-mile long, 20-foot wide concrete path.

• The path connects Woodlands Intermediate School and Huron High School, providing access points midway into nearby subdivisions.

• Bicyclists, joggers, walkers and even pets can traverse across the area

• The path should be open all year round after opening in the coming weeks.

• The path runs parallel to U.S. 6, providing people a separate, isolated corridor away from traffic.

• The path will eventually link up with sidewalks being built on Rye Beach Road. People can walk from BGSU Firelands to Fabens Park uninterrupted while avoiding traffic throughout the trek.


The route could also link up with other railway systems going through Fostoria, Lima, Toledo, Cincinnati and Detroit, according to the Encyclopedia of North American Railroads. The company’s demise occurred around the late 1930s after executives declaring bankruptcy, forcing them to close all existing lines, including Huron’s corridor. White, however, seemed elated to revive a once-popular pathway.


“We’re utilizing what’s already in place and improving this infrastructure,” White said.


Repurposing a dormant corridor into a vibrant pathway promoting community development and health excites Perkins Township resident Bob Langenfelder. Langenfelder, along with his wife Laura, pedal about 100 miles throughout Erie County each week and plan to detour onto the Lake Shore Electric Railway Trail once it opens. “Nothing beats a bike path,” Langenfelder said. “They’ve created a pathway to ensure the safety of the kids, adults and anyone else riding out there.”


Pedal progress

In Huron’s new master plan, outlining various improvements during the next 10 years, blueprints call for creating more bike lanes and walking paths. Huron, however, already understands the importance of bike paths.


No other political subdivision in Erie County offers more bike paths than Huron, making it the area’s premier hub for two-wheeled riding. The new trail complements three other existing bike lanes, located on Bogart, Cleveland and River roads.


“The city of Huron has made a commitment to these paths,” said Langenfelder, who frequently treks on the city’s pathways. “You got to give the city credit.” Some also count the revamped North Main Pier as another Huron-based bike path.


A year ago, city officials completed a $97,000 overhaul to rejuvenate the North Main Pier, a popular spot off Main Street visit for leisurely strolls, photos shoots, fishing and even bicycling. “As a community, we wanted to invest more in pedestrian mobility and recreational availability,” White said. “By no means are we done creating trails.”

Cycling impact


The League of American Bicyclists, a national organization promoting two-wheeled riding, concluded the cost to construct a bike lane ranged anywhere from $5,000 to $60,000 per mile. This cost includes planning, engineering and painting costs, among other path-related fees. But the payoff for creating bike lanes far exceeds the cost, said Carl Sundstrom, a program manager for the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.


“Bike lanes are like having a linear park,” Sundstrom said. “Bike lanes can be an inexpensive way to encourage people to bike safely around the community.”


Locals relying on bicyclists to support their livelihoods also welcome more pathways. “Bike paths create safer ways for people to travel,” said Jackie Sypherd, who owns Lakeside-based Sypherd’s Cycles bicycle store.


Friendly chatter

The Register recently asked some of its Facebook friends for their opinions about a new bike and walking trail in Huron.

• Raymond Smith: It would lower bicycle traffic on roads and would give bicyclists more places to ride safely.

• Jaimen Johnson: Bike paths are safer, and the view is nicer, too. It would be great to get a bike lane on the busier roads.

• Sheri Budd: Huron is amazing.

• Anna Aceto: Yes. It is safer for every bike rider, young to cold. Good exercise, too.


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