Park sees way to link bike trail to Ohio River

LISBON – The Columbiana County Park District has come up with a way to extend the bicycle trail to the Ohio River, but it will require some riding on roadways and permission to cross state lands.

Park Board President Dottie Betz said they intend to seek permission from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to have the trail pass through state forest land in the Grimms Bridge area of St. Clair Township by following an abandoned railroad bed that parallels the main fork of the Little Beaver Creek on its way to the Ohio River.

Betz said this would complete the Little Beaver Creek Greenway Trail through the county and make it part of a larger plan for a bike trail linking Lake Erie to the Ohio River.

“The whole plan is at some point to connect all of the dots,” she said.

The 12.5-mile trail begins in Lisbon and runs north to Washingtonville and the Mahoning County line, with the final two miles just recently completed. To extend the trail south of Grimms Bridge, Betz said they are proposing bicyclists follow state Route 154 to Elkton and then get on Middle Beaver Road to state Route 7. They would then take Route 7 to Bell School Road before turning onto Calcutta-Smith Ferry Road and then Grimms Bridge Road. Once at Grimms Bridge, the bicyclists would follow the abandoned railroad bed the final leg south to the Ohio River.

The last section of railroad bed is in Pennsylvania, and Betz said they are working with a bicycle organization from the Keystone State to help obtain permission from the necessary property owners and government agencies there to complete the link.

The abandoned railroad extends north of Grimms Bridge to Negley, and Betz said they are actually seeking ODNR permission to resurface (with either blacktop or crushed limestone) the entire section within the state forest lands. This would enable them to create an eight-mile bike trail from the Ohio River to just south of Bieler Run, which is located between Grimms Bridge and Fredericktown. She said this would create a nice separate trail.

“That’s what we’re going to go with for now and hope things will work out differently,” Betz said, adding the collapsed train tunnel at Grimms Bridge would be bypassed as part of the plan.

She said the entire project will cost at least a $1 million, and the board will follow the familiar path of seeking whatever funding is available from private and public sources.

“When we start the bidding process we’ll know what we have to have and go get it,” Betz said.

The railroad bed is a favorite among ATV riders trespassing on state lands, and Betz hopes the short vertical metal posts they erect intermittently on the trail to discourage motor vehicle traffic will stop that from happening.

“If you have a trail in place with bollards that will help eliminate a lot of that,” she said.