The Wabash-Cannonball hike and bike trail will soon branch out into eastern Fulton County as the Metroparks of the Toledo Area was given state transportation funds to construct a six-mile extension.
The $2.1 million grant in Transportation Alternatives funds will cover 95 percent of the project for replacing hard‐packed cinder ballast and areas of dirt and grass with pavement from the Lucas-Fulton line to State Rt. 109, just south of Delta.
Currently, the paved North Fork Trail begins at Jerome Road in Monclova Township near Fallen Timbers Battlefield and stretches nine miles west through Lucas County, ending at the county line.
Matt Cleland, the Metroparks’ deputy and finance director, said the improvements will foster more use of the Wabash Cannonball trail and enhance opportunities for connectivity to other biking and hiking trails, including the North Coast Inland Trail in Ottawa County.
“We would love to see the trail be completed all the way to Indiana,” he said.
The Metroparks match for the grant is $112,667, or 5 percent of the total construction cost.
Mr. Cleland said the earliest that construction could begin would be in the summer of 2019.
The old rail line in Fulton County is owned by the Northwestern Ohio Rails to Trails Association, which was established in 1994 to manage the system after the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments purchased two abandoned rail lines in Lucas, Fulton, Henry, and Williams counties from Norfolk Southern Railroad.
The lines included the 63-mile track ran from Jerome Road to Montpelier and the 17-mile line west of Jerome to Liberty Center. The North Fork opened in 2001, and the seven-mile South Fork running through Whitehouse and ending near Neapolis was completed two years later.
The Metroparks and NORTA have an agreement on the project for shared responsibility. The park district would take care of mowing, litter, safety patrols, and snow plowing and NORTA will pay for long term capital and major maintenance projects.
Emily Ziegler, chief of planning for the Metroparks, said a grant application will be submitted to the same funding source next spring that could extend the trail an additional four miles to Fulton County Road 11.
“This opportunity is one example of the many we have received or are pursuing to help advance our ambitious capital plan with support from grants and outside funding,” she said.
Plans call for routing the trail from County Road 11 to County Road F and south to County Road 13 to get users to the paved section in Wauseon.