Preservation Parks of Delaware County has added 3.7 miles to what eventually will be about 15 miles of the Ohio to Erie Trail running through the southeast corner of the county.
When completed, the 326-mile trail will allow cyclists to travel from the Ohio River at Cincinnati to Lake Erie at Cleveland, using mainly former railroad and canal rights of way that ran along state Route 3. About 50 miles will be on city streets and rural roads.
The county's newest section of the trail also is along railroad right of way in Sunbury and Trenton Township.
Preservation Parks said it purchased the property from Kathryn and Walter Sandel with a Clean Ohio Trails Fund grant of $492,000 and an Ohio Capital Improvement Award of $169,266, along with parks-district funding.
The land runs from Sunbury along U.S. Route 36 and state Route 3 to connect near Condit to the existing Meredith State Trail, which extends to the Licking County line.
Sue Hagan, Preservation Parks marketing and communications manager, said the new section will have two lanes with a center line when it's paved, which could occur as early as 2020.
Ohio to Erie will be a multiuse trail for nonmotorized traffic, she said, with bicyclists expected to be among the main users.
Matt Simpson, Preservation Parks chief landscape architect, said a number of jurisdictions own sections of the trail that have been acquired so far along its planned length. Work has been underway on the entire trail since 1990, he said, with no target date set for its overall completion.
Preservation Parks will hire a contractor for the paving, Simpson said, and likely will seek grants -- for example, from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Trail Fund.
In a press release, Preservation Parks Executive Director Tom Curtin praised the Sandels for their vision and willingness to sell the right of way to the park district.
"For more than a decade, the Sandels had a dream for the use of this land to become a trail that would be enjoyed for years to come by so many," said Curtin. "We are thankful for their vision and protection of this land and look forward to turning this dream into reality."
He said the couple earlier donated the railroad property that became the Sandel Legacy Trail, which runs 0.6 miles in Sunbury.
Curtin also thanked State Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township) for advocating for state funding for the Delaware County trail sections.
"The sale by the Sandels to Preservation Parks provides the critical link to bring the Ohio to Erie Trail to Sunbury," said Jim Flaherty, a Genoa Township resident and 14-year member of the Ohio to Erie Trail board.
"The Delaware County Friends of the Trail have been working since 2000 on the Delaware portion of the trail," he said. "This parcel will allow us to connect Licking and Knox counties to Sunbury."
The village of Galena also is working on a section of Ohio to Erie Trail that will connect its trails to the Sandel Legacy Trail. Several small gaps remain in Sunbury that total about a half-mile, the press release said.
Both Licking and Knox counties are in various stages of acquisition and/or development of short trail segments that will link to the already-paved trails extending across Knox County and farther north and east.
For more information, visit ohiotoerietrail.org.