After more than a decade of planning, the Hemlock Creek Trail in Independence is finally becoming a reality, with a public groundbreaking held on Saturday, June 2.

The 1.7-mile asphalt Hemlock Creek trail’s western terminus will begin at Brecksville Road and Selig Drive in Independence, traverse through parts of historic Independence and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), and ultimately meet up with the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail at its eastern terminus.

“It’s been over a decade and we’re finally bringing it to fruition,” says Independence mayor Anthony Togliatti. “This will be our only safe pedestrian link from the City of Independence to the Towpath Trail and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.”

The Hemlock Creek Trail is the latest addition to a growing network of trails that users can travel from Tuscarawas County all the way up to Cleveland’s lakefront. While some of the land on the trail is owned by Independence, the rest is owned by CVNP and the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, along with Cumberland Real Estate Development.

“It will truly be a catalyst of economic development inspired by nodes of development and recreation and tourism hubs,” says Derek Schafer, executive director of the West Creek Greenway (part of West Creek Conservancy’s dedication to preserving the region’s natural greenspace and waterways). “This is not just a loop trail—Hemlock Creek Trail creates a transportation choice network [and] recreation. It connects people to greenspace and people to people.”

The $3 million project will be financed using federal and state grants, as well as the Independence’s Selig Road Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Fund.

Most of the multi-purpose asphalt path, which will also be ADA compliant, will be constructed along the abandoned Hemlock Road/Stone Road right-of-way and former quarry haul roads along Hemlock Creek, through the Cuyahoga River Valley, and inside of CVNP. Five bridges are also part of the project plan—some of them already in existence, some planned construction projects. One of the bridges will span about 200 feet to cross the Cuyahoga River.

“Completing this project has been a key element of the West Creek Greenway and Neighborhood Trail Plan for more than a decade,” said Schafer via a statement. “It is the linkage between our 21-mile inter-community recreational system through Independence, Seven Hills, Parma, and Brooklyn Heights; the Cleveland Metroparks West Creek Reservation; and the Towpath.”

Schafer says the hope is to create passion for Northeast Ohio’s natural resources. “Once you connect people to these beautiful places, you hope they get more involved,” he says, adding that the Hemlock Creek Trail will offer some of the area’s most beautiful features. “You’re within the forest of the Cuyahoga Valley—one of nature’s best—and the Hemlock Creek Trail has tributary streams, ecological impact, and it’s beautiful. Then you get to the [Cuyahoga] River, and you see its size, it’s beauty. It’s a destination.”

In addition to the waterfalls and Class 3 rapids that can be spotted from the planned trail, Togliatti points out that the trail will also highlight Independence’s rich industrial history. “There are old quarries back in the woods,” he says. “There was a lot of mining and quarrying, and a lot of the work is still visible.” The sole remaining quarry—the 1890 Haydite mine, Hydraulic Press Brick Company—is still operational today under DiGeronimo Aggregates LLC.

Togliatti says plans are in the works to erect historical markers along the trail to educate people on the history of the area.

Original article of Freshwater Cleveland modified post-groundbreaking –

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