With all the paperwork filled out and the planning in place, work has begun on a $2.2 million project to extend the paved section of the Wabash Cannonball Trail by six miles into Fulton County.
The paving project will run from the Fulton/Lucas County line in Swanton to State Route 109 in Delta — where the Northwest Ohio Rails-to-Trails Association headquarters is located.
Expercon LLC. of Toledo has the contract, but they also have a few subcontractors working under them. The project is funded by ODOT through their Transportation Alternatives Program.
A few years back, Metroparks Toledo met with NORTA about an idea to pave the trail all the way from the Fulton County line to County Road 11. However, that project — quoted at $4-million — was not approved by the state.
They then came back with the proposal to end the pavement extension at State Route 109, to which the state said yes.
“The project is underway; it’s moving at a snails pace. We’re hoping it picks up,” said NORTA Vice President Tom Striggow. “The initial completion date was to be Aug. 31. That’s probably gonna have to be rescheduled or rethought. And we don’t have a (completion) date, but it’s (likely) sometime late fall.”
The goal is to enhance a significant piece of the Wabash Cannonball Trail, making it more accessible and inviting to trail users.
“It’s a big project. We’re excited about it,” explained Striggow. “When it’s finished, we (NORTA) will remain owners of the trail in Fulton County but Metroparks Toledo will patrol it with their police force. They will do all the maintenance on the trail — as far as mowing, clearing down trees, brush work. That helps us because we just don’t have the people or the finances to keep doing that.”
NORTA consists of roughly five or six members, according to Striggow.
Once finished, the newly-paved section will look identical to the paved portions in Lucas County. It will consist of 12-foot wide blacktop with a yellow centerline painted down it. There will also be 2-feet of natural stone/grass berm on each side of the road.
With the change, some modes of transportation will now be disallowed on this stretch of the trail. Horses are prohibited, as well as the use of ATVs.
Nevertheless, Striggow has no doubt this will attract more people to the trail in Fulton County.
He feels it could become similar to the paved stretch in Lucas County, which he describes being “like a highway.”
“It’s easier to use when it’s paved. Some people don’t like it paved, like the horse people and some others,” Striggow said. “It’s gonna push a lot of traffic (to the trail). You won’t believe it.”
The first mile of the trail extension will be dedicated to Tom Duvendack, former NORTA President and manager of Oak Openings Preserve.
Duvendack was the “point person” regarding all matters Wabash Cannonball Trail during his time at NORTA. He died Easter Sunday in 2019.
“He had a lot of knowledge,” said Striggow of Duvendack. “I learned a lot from him. I worked side-by-side with him on trail projects. He was a major loss to us.”
Outside of the current project, there are no future plans to pave more of the trail at this time. Striggow hopes in the future, Metroparks Toledo can reapply, and be granted permission, to have the three miles paved from State Route 109 to County Road 11.
From County Road 11 to where the trail crosses U.S. 20A is owned by the City of Wauseon. Trail is paved for three miles within the Wauseon city limits.
The rest of the trail, to Montpelier, is unpaved.
The Wabash Cannonball Trail also has a south leg that stretches for 17 miles from Maumee to Liberty Center, with the first 10 miles paved.