Proposed hike-and-bike trail in Kent takes another step toward construction

During a special March 6 Kent City Council session, city leaders greenlighted the way for a proposed hike and bike trail that will run partly over another city’s water line.

The vote was unanimous. Council Member Chris Hook was not present.

Lake Rockwell Trail is set to run partly over a waterline the city of Akron uses to transmit potable water from Lake Rockwell to its water treatment facility and ultimately to Akron businesses and residents.

Neither a sidewalk nor a recreation trail, though it could be used as both in various places, the proposed Lake Rockwell Trail is meant as a “nonmotorized connection” between parks, neighborhoods, schools, commercial areas and the Portage, Summit and Freedom hike & bike trails, City Engineer Jim Bowling said.

“It’s not meant for people to drive to and park,” Bowling said. “It’s meant for Kent residents to travel from their neighborhoods to meaningful destinations without using their cars. We don’t have many of those in the area.”

The proposed trail is slated to start at the juncture of the Freedom and Portage trails on Middlebury Road, at the Cuyahoga River. From there, it will run along the west side of Akron Boulevard, over land the city of Akron owns.

“Either it’s in Kent’s right of way or it’s in Akron’s right of way,” Bowling said. “It will provide a better quality of life without encroaching on anyone’s private land.”

The trail will continue up Judith Street to West Main Street, where it will cross onto an existing sidewalk.

Instead of continuing on the Haymaker bypass, the trail will use an already existing bike path on West Main Street. It will then proceed down Bryce Road and Majors Lane, using a now all-but-obscured path bordering the Jessie Smith Nature Preserve.

That path does not continue past the preserve, so arrangements will have to be made to safely get pedestrians or bicyclists to Fairchild Avenue, where a safe crossing space will have to be established.

Once across Fairchild, the trail will skirt the athletic fields, cross Hudson Road, traverse the high school and middle school campus and then proceed north along Route 43 in front of the high school. At some point it will cross Route 43, go through Davey Tree’s SEED campus and ultimately meet with an as-yet unconstructed section of the Portage Park District’s trails.

How that crosswalk, or the others that cross major thoroughfares, could be rendered safe is still undetermined, Bowling said.

Should the trail be completed as proposed, people would be able to easily access Freedom Trail, the Portage Hike & Bike Trail, Davey Elementary School campus, the Stanton Middle School and Roosevelt High School campuses, Jessie Smith Nature Preserve, the Fairchild athletic fields, the John Davey Arboretum and the public areas of Davey Tree’s SEED campus, Bowling said.

The trail will feature connection points to the Longcoy and Middlebury, Davey and West River, Hudson Road and River Bend neighborhoods, he said.

Rockwell Trail meets city council’s goal of enabling more children to walk safely to school and to enable more people to access parks and downtown destinations without having to drive, he said.

Funding is still to be determined and depends on the availability of grants. That availability, as well as city priorities that may change due to foreseen or unforeseen circumstances, means Bowling has no idea when the trail may be built.

And even when construction would start, the trail would be built in phases that once again are to be determined.

The 25-year agreement, renewable for two consecutive 10-year terms, has Kent mowing and maintaining the property that Akron will still own. In return, Kent will be able to build and maintain the trail. Kent’s mowing and maintenance duties will begin once the trail is actually built in any specific area, Bowling said.

It could take a while. The Portage Hike and Bike Trail was started in 2008 and sections remain unfinished to this day, he said.

“That’s 16 years, so what we’re talking about with the Lake Rockwell Trail could be similar to that,” he said.

+ posts

Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.