By Ed Runyan
Jo Lawrence of Warren breezed along the newly finished central portion of the Warren bike trail near ValleyCare Trumbull Memorial Hospital on her bicycle and noticed some wildflowers.
“It’s like being out in the middle of nature — the variety of wildflowers, some sweet peas. It’s serene and peaceful,” she said Tuesday evening. “It’s not my picture of Warren, which is streets and sidewalks. It’s like being in a different place.”
Lawrence was among about 35 people who participated in the grand opening and ribbon-cutting for the .75-mile portion of the bike trail from Warren G. Harding High School to a railroad trestle over South Street.
The event featured a ride from the high school about 1.6 miles south to the southern city limits at Burton Street to give the celebrants a little flavor of the $3.5 million, 3.9-mile Warren portion of the bike trail.
Federal grant money paid for the project.
The trail’s northern part, which travels along city streets on Paige Avenue Northeast past the former Delphi complex into North End Park and onto virgin land on the west side of Park Avenue, has been complete since 2010. The southernmost part of the trail near Burton also was finished in 2010.
Lawrence, who says she hasn’t ridden her bike a lot in recent years, said she was glad Warren Councilman John Brown Jr. and Mel Milliron, Trumbull County Health Department educator, organized the event so she could travel the trail with a group.
“I thought it was a good way to see it,” she said. “I didn’t want to try it by myself.”
The central section of the Warren bike trail is probably the most urban part of the 100-mile trail from Ashtabula to East Liverpool.
Mayor Doug Franklin, as he and others prepared to cut the ceremonial ribbon, said people have told him the ride over two railroad bridges and through the Charles Avenue area provide interesting sights.
“It’s an interesting part of the trail with an urban backdrop,” Franklin said.
Brown said he envisions a bed and breakfast one day being opened along the Warren part of the trail — which is the midpoint between Ashtabula and East Liverpool.
“It’s a great economic tool,” said Brown, who also is a member of the Trumbull County MetroParks Board. “It helps the city.”
As the group reached the southern terminus of the Warren trail, Brown and the rest of the group stopped to discuss its future.
From Burton Street, the trail eventually will continue along the railroad bed through Weathersfield Township to the trail head in downtown Niles.
But that section will take a long time to complete, Brown said, because negotiations with the railroads have been difficult. There will be issues with funding in the future, too, he said, so he asked the bikers to tell their congressman and senators to help fund future sections.
The trail’s missing link just north of the city — from North River Road to Champion Avenue — isn’t far off from being completed, Brown said.
“About this time next year, hopefully we’ll be celebrating that being open,” he said.