The Cuyahoga River Water Trail became official October 4, as it joined 12 others in Ohio. Twenty-five organizations, including the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the cities of Kent and Akron and non-profit groups, like the Cuyahoga River Restoration began working in 2011 to earn the designation.
The designation came from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), along with a $20,000 grant. The trail includes 24 access points, new signage, maps, and educational materials on the nearly hundred-mile river.
As mentioned in my previous blog post, a water trail is a stretch of lake or river that is identified as a recreational resource with maps and signs showing official access points, amenities and safety information. The goal is to promote public use of waterways, support tourism and encourage conservation.
When I arrived at Water Works Park in Cuyahoga Falls for the ceremony, the parking lot was already filled. As people waited for the events to begin, groups kayaked down the river just behind the podium, symbolizing the even greater future of recreation that’s yet to come.
“The Cuyahoga River is a symbol of efforts to clean up America’s waterways,” said Andrea Irland, facilitator of the National Park Service’s rivers, trails, and conservation program. “Famous for catching fire, the Cuyahoga is now sparking excitement about how far we have come and what the future holds.”
Mayors and officials from all of the cities that played a role, donors who helped fund the trail, river enthusiasts and representatives from multiple organizations were all in attendance awaiting the river’s new designation.
“Who would have believed we would want to be on the river?” Irland asked. “This past June, we celebrated 50 years of progress that has been made since the last burning of the river. All along the Cuyahoga, there were celebrations and anticipation for the future.”
Irland joked that the next celebration of the river was in the near future and just five minutes later, the river was a new water trail.
“We’ve come a long way, and where do we go from here?” asked Christine Craycoft, the executive director for the Portage Park District Executive Director. “It’s just one more example, this water trail, of how the resilient Northeast Ohio communities come together to improve our region and defy that Rust Belt moniker.”
The future looks bright for the river, and it will continue to need help from its supporters, Craycroft continued. “We think the river’s only going to get better from here on and more popular, so we need to be ready.”
The moment it became official:
After the designation was made, students from Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center read poems about the Cuyahoga. Here, Graduate Fellow Carrie George reads Jawbone Pledge.