A ceremony recently occurred to unveil an extension in Wakeman along the multimodal pathway.
Named the Bruce L. Chapin Bridge, it connects a previously detached portion, allowing bicyclists, runners and horseback riders to travel west into Norwalk or head east toward Elyria.
Volunteers associated with Firelands Rails to Trails — forming in 2000, the nonprofit cares for about a 20-mile section spanning through Huron County — retrofitted the bridge so non-motorized traffic can travel atop it. A combination of donations and state funds, lobbied for by state Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, covered costs for construction.
“The bridge is a key component because it makes the trail safer,” Firelands president Lance Franke said. “People don’t need to travel on (U.S. 20) anymore. That pinched down in an area and funneled traffic really close to people on the trail. On the bridge, people don’t need to worry about traffic anymore.”
Volunteers worked on the bridge because their overall mission revolves around fully developing the North Coast Inland Trail. It’s a 103-mile-long course, spanning from Indiana’s eastern border to Elyria. Today it’s about 85 percent complete.
Next up: Volunteers want to place a connector trail between the bridge and the paved Wakeman East Bikeway.
A long-term project also just began. Group members started a dialogue with a design group to pave the path’s entire length in Huron County. Those areas are covered in stone or gravel.
Opening in the 1870s, the Bruce L. Chapin Bridge is named after a deceased local contractor.
Generations ago, the bridge once carried fast-mail trains, freight and passengers on the Lake Shore route as part of the original Transcontinental Railroad.
What is the North Coast Inland Trail?
The North Coast Inland Trail aspires to connect a 103-mile area from Elyria to Indiana’s eastern border with a dedicated pathway.
Right now, the pathway is about 85 percent complete, with some areas unconnected to others. For instance, it’s segregated between Elmore and Genoa.
But it runs uninterrupted through many parts of northern Ohio, including near Fremont, Clyde, Bellevue, Monroeville and Norwalk.
Depending on the area, a park district, local government or volunteer organization funds, develops and maintains the trail.
Some preliminary plans show the path extending further eastward into Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
“It’s so unique with all sorts of different terrain,” said Lance Franke, who serves as president for Firelands Rails to Trails, a group overseeing maintenance where the trail runs through Huron County. “There are farm areas. There are open areas. You can go over historic bridges. Everywhere is spectacular.”
Want to join or ride?
Firelands Rails to Trails, an all-volunteer, nonprofit group, is dedicated to the design, construction, maintenance and operation of the North Coast Inland Trail in Huron County. The group always expects members and often plans group rides on the trail. To join, visit frtti.org
Anyone can access the North Coast Inland Trail in Huron County or in other areas. In Huron County, people can access the trail at various points, including many in and around uptown Norwalk.
Everyone must follow rules to use the path:
• The trail is open from dawn to dusk.
• Respect private property by staying on the trail.
• No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail except for power chairs for the disabled.
• No climbing on fences, railings, bridges or abutments.
• No camping, campfires, swimming or loitering.
• Park only in designated areas. Do not park on the trail surface.
• No alcohol allowed.
• Dogs must be on leashes and must be under control.