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City Bike Trail Links Cross State Off-Road Path

During summer months more Central Ohioans head for bike trails in the region. The network of paved and gravel paths winds through parks and alongside creeks and rivers. The newest section of the bike trail system, a two-and-half mile stretch along Alum Creek on the city's northeast side, offers bicyclists an entry point to a much longer off-road path. Beneath a grove of mature trees at Innis Park, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman arrived to dedicate a recycled bridge and a two-and-a-half mile section of the Alum Creek Bike trail. http://www.flickr.com/photos/wosu/sets/72157627223833790/show/ The newest section of trail becomes part of what is now a 165-mile-long system that offers bicyclists and pedestrians an off-road means of getting around town. Coleman, who described himself as "bikin' Mike" for the 60 people in attendance, describes Columbus as a boom town for bicycling. "And I can tell you, our count shows that there's over 100,000 people been on these trails, bike trails, bike paths, this spring," he said. Coleman said the city has received national media recognition for its trail system. The Alum Creek trail runs more than 22 miles from Westerville on the north, through Columbus, south to Obetz. It's one of nine such trails in Central Ohio. The Alum Creek trail is also part of the Ohio to Erie trail that will allow cyclists to ride, off-road, from Cincinnati, through Columbus, to the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland. Executive director of the Ohio to Erie Trail, Jerry Rampelt, said the paved path runs through 11 Ohio counties. "When the Ohio-to-Erie trail is completed, and this is going to be a matter of just a few years, it will be the longest off-road, paved trail in the United States, being just over 300 miles long," Rampelt said. Rampelt said the trail linking Ohio's three largest cities is also drawing summer tourists. "I am contacted weekly by people who are traveling cross state and using this as their vacation from all over the country," he said. Other parts of the Ohio to Erie trail follow old rail and canal lines that Rampelt said are flat and often scenic. The Innis Park section of Ohio to Erie features a recycled iron and steel truss bridge across Alum Creek. It was relocated from Wheelersburg about 100 miles south of Columbus. Franklin County engineer, Dean Ringle, said the span with its huge I-beams and its arches of interlocking triangles on each side of the paved deck, was built about the same time Ohio's two most famous bicyclists, Wilbur and Orville Wright were experimenting with the two-wheelers. "This was built in 1900. It was used for over 100 years for highway purposes. As its been restored, with new stainless steel bolts holding the pieces together, and those won't rust," Ringle said. "This will last a long, long time." Ringle said Central Ohio trails mostly follow streams and rivers so they run north to south. He said more east-west trails are needed to connect Alum Creek, for instance, with the Big Darby trail. Coleman said because of the growing popularity of the trail system, more capital improvements are planned. "So as a result we're actually going to invest in more," Coleman said. "Bike trails, bike stations, you'll see more downtown happening here soon." Coleman said completion of the final two sections of the Alum Creek trail is one of the highest priorities of his administration.