John McCormick of Struthers has been bicycling the Stavich Bike Trail for more than 20 years. He’s recently noticed some problems with the trail, which begins off state Route 289 and continues 10.5 miles into New Castle, Pa., including bumpy sections in Ohio.
Ohio section of Stavich Bike Trail in need of repairs
By EMMALEE C. TORISK
John McCormick thinks a lot of people would like to ride bicycles, but are too afraid to contend with dangerous and distracted drivers on the road.
With its secluded path and paved surface, however, the 10.5-mile Stavich Bike Trail that starts in Struthers off state Route 289 and culminates on Covert Road near New Castle, Pa., is a good option.
McCormick, who lives in Struthers and is a member of the Youngstown-based Out-Spokin’ Wheelmen Bicycle Club, has been traversing the old electric trolley line for more than 20 years.
But on McCormick’s recent rides, he’s noticed some problems.
“The worst part is at the 2.5-mile mark, if you start from Struthers,” recalled McCormick, 67. “There’s a section there, just past Lowellville, that’s got a lot of bumps on it, where the heat has buckled up the blacktop.”
Others, including Lowellville Mayor James Iudiciani Sr., have noticed similar issues with the 31-year-old trail. Portions of the Ohio side need to be repaved, for example, and a number of culverts and guardrails need to be repaired as well.
The holdup is money.
According to Vindicator files, the trail’s history dates back to the mid-1970s. A state grant originally intended to finance the project was a casualty of disagreements over who would complete the work, and it wasn’t until Campbell philanthropist John Stavich and his brothers, Andy and George, donated nearly $200,000 to the effort that the pathway, once consumed by foliage, was completed.
Even after the trail’s dedication in May 1983, the Staviches continued to donate more money — concluding with John Stavich leaving $50,000 in his will to the Lowellville/Hillsville Charitable Foundation.
Now, there’s only about $11,000 left in the foundation, Iudiciani said, and liability insurance costs $1,100 annually. It’s just not possible, then, for the foundation to fund the estimated $300,000 in repairs needed on the trail’s Ohio section.
Iudiciani said Lowellville maintains the Ohio section, and that both the village and the city of Struthers have been in discussions with Mill Creek MetroParks for more than a year about the possibility of the park system taking over those responsibilities.
Samantha L. Villella, community engagement director for Mill Creek MetroParks, said the MetroParks is “unable to commit to the operation of the Stavich Bike Trail at this time,” though she was unable to offer specific reasons for that decision.
Iudiciani said he and others in the village remain committed to finding a long-term solution for the bike trail’s maintenance.
Gary Slaven, a trustee of the Lowellville/Hillsville Charitable Foundation and president of Falcon Foundry in Lowellville, said he’s hopeful repairs can somehow be made by the end of the year before the trail “sees another winter.” Slaven added the land is owned by FirstEnergy’s Ohio Edison, and is leased to the foundation.
Years ago, the Pennsylvania section of the Stavich Bike Trail was the side in trouble.
In 2008, realizing that those approximately 8 miles were in major need of repair and that the funds to do so just weren’t available, the Lawrence County commissioners entered into a 25-year lease agreement with FirstEnergy’s Pennsylvania Power Co.
The agreement allowed the county to apply for state funding to make repairs — which included repaving, remedying drainage issues and repairing bridges. The repair costs totaled about $800,000, said Amy McKinney, director of the Lawrence County Planning Department.
Janet Falotico, assistant executive director of the Lawrence County Tourist Promotion Agency, remembered how the effects of erosion had made sections of the trail nearly impassable. She’s “extremely proud” of the county’s foresight in choosing to repair and maintain it.
With tourism as the second-largest industry in Lawrence County, the Stavich Bike Trail is a big contributor to that traffic.
“It’s a huge attraction for the many bikers to have a paved trail that runs in two states and two counties,” Falotico said.