Akron Looks to Improve Towpath Trail Through Downtown

Dan Rice (L) and Josh Sikich look over aerial photographs of the towpath on the stage of Akron Civic Theater
Dan Rice (L) and Josh Sikich look over aerial photographs of the towpath on the stage of Akron Civic Theater

The Towpath Trail runs right through downtown Akron and the city built several multi-million dollar bridges and underpasses to make it work. Officials recently asked trail users for ideas on how to make the towpath even better. Dan Rice of the Ohio and Erie Canalway Coalition says two large suggestions jumped out.

“Make it easy to navigate so people don’t get lost and also the second component of this is: how can we make it easy to navigate connections to community attractions like the Akron Art Museum, the Akron Zoo, as well as neighborhoods.”

Portland, OR based Alta Planning and Design conducted the survey. Project manager Josh Sikich came in from Chicago with a team. He said his company is also developing a trail in Arkansas for the Walton Family Foundation.

“Everybody around the country is seeing this as an opportunity and not everyone is doing it as well as Akron or northwest Arkansas are. It’s not just big cities or the places you hear about all the time. A lot of places are taking great advantage of having some really strong trails.

Sikich says cities are trying to improve their quality of life so they can attract and retain talented people.

“We live in a competitive environment even cities competing with other cities other for young talent, whether it’s Cleveland, Columbus, or Chicago or New York. And this is really a unique asset to Akron. And with us, seeing that with fresh eyes, we see that absolutely and this could really be a boon for attracting young entrepreneurs, attracting business.”

Sikich says all the investment in the Akron trail makes it unique but he believes it still doesn't live up to its potential. He suggests new signage can be implemented almost immediately but long term he’d like to see bicycle and pedestrian lanes included on side streets that can connect to the Towpath Trail. He and Rice are already thinking ahead to what trails can be built when the Akron Inner-belt (Rt 59) is redesigned from a closed-access expressway into a slower, pedestrian-friendly boulevard.

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