Ten miles of the Wabash Cannonball Trail wending through eastern Fulton County may undergo a multi-million dollar improvement in 2017.
Through a memorandum of understanding, the Northwestern Ohio Rails-to-Trails Association (NORTA) will pair with Metroparks Toledo to pave the North Fork of the Wabash Cannonball Trail from the Lucas County line to County Road 11 in Fulton County.
Presently, the trail is paved from the City of Maumee to the Lucas-Fulton County line. Between the county line and Fulton County Road 11 the trail is either hard-packed with cinder or consists of dirt and grass.
The metropark system hopes to fund 95 percent of the $2.8 million asphalt project with an Ohio Transportation Enhancement Grant (OTEG). It will file an application, and has pledged to cover the remaining $140,000 cost.
“The trail’s there, and with just a five percent match we can leverage that to add a substantial addition to trail miles for Metropark users,” said Scott Carpenter, Metroparks Toledo public relations director.
Representatives from Metroparks Toledo and NORTA will co-host a public open house about the project on Tuesday, May 10 from 7:30-8:30 p.m. at the Delta Municipal Building, 401 Main St.
Locally, the trail runs east to west approximately a mile south of Swanton, through Wauseon, then north of Archbold. The trail continues to Montpelier in Williams County. The South Fork also starts in the Maumee area and travels southwest to Liberty Center.
“It will serve our Lucas County residents as well,” Carpenter said. “Trails are the one thing I can say, ‘Build it, and they will come.’ They’re the number one reason people come to the metroparks. Running, walking, and bicycling have grown in popularity over the years.”
Metroparks Toledo approached NORTA about the collaboration about two months ago. This will be the first project the metroparks has with an entity outside of Lucas County, according to NORTA President Jay Budde. Normally, the metropark system doesn’t extend development beyond the county borders.
“We have expressed initial, informal support of this grant application. NORTA is really excited about cooperating with Metroparks on this effort that will connect Fulton County with the trails at Metroparks in Lucas County and Williams and Henry counties as well,” Budde said.
He said it’s a natural process for the metroparks to pave the trail. “Metroparks are very interested in extending it for their users,” he said.
Because the project will rely on grant funding it likely would not begin until next year. The OTEG is provided for alternative forms of transportation, such as the Wabash Cannonball Trail.
The trail was formerly a railroad line that ran from Maumee to Montpelier, and then into Indiana. The railroad abandoned the 63-mile line in the 1990s, when it was purchased by NORTA.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.