By the spring of 2020, the city of Chardon will be paving the way for a new route for hikers and bikers as it put the final pieces of a citywide trail into place last week.

City Manager Randal Sharpe reported to City Council last week that the city finally received a purchase agreement from CSX for property needed to finish the final leg of the Maple Highlands Trail that will connect the city with a single trail from north to south through the city.

The city opened the first leg of the trail two years ago that ran from the Geauga Park District’s southern terminus of the Maple Highlands Trail into the city. The city’s first leg brought the trail from Center Street (Route 44) to Water Street (Route 6).

The final leg will stretch from Water Street to South Street (Route 44) where it will connect again with the northern terminus of the Geauga Park District’s Maple Highlands Trail that leads to Middlefield.

Mr. Sharpe had expressed concern a month earlier that CSX was not responding to the city on the purchase of the property, noting that it had been three months since the city heard from CSX officials.

He credited U.S. Rep. David Joyce, R-Bainbridge, with following up on a phone call to his office, asking for his assistance in getting CSX to respond to the city. That apparently provided the impetus for CSX to finally approve the purchase agreement for the needed section of trail.

Mr. Sharpe noted that the city could not proceed with the project without ownership of the CSX property.

In addition, Council took action on an agreement with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for a $435,991 grant that will be used for the construction of the 0.86-mile section needed to connect the trail.

Council also voiced unanimous support for a declaration of restrictive covenants on the CSX property.

City Law Director James Gillette said the covenant is needed because of possible contaminants that may exist on the CSX property. It allows the city to use the property for a parking lot, trail head and a portion of the trail by acknowledging that certain actions cannot be done on the property to contain the contaminants.

He said the city cannot disturb the soils other than minor excavations for the construction of the trail and parking lot.

Without the agreement to leave the soils undisturbed, he said, the city and CSX could face “onerous” requirements to test the soils and possibly remediate the site by removing the soils.

He said the same types of restrictions were placed on property the city purchased from the county along Center Street that formerly served as a maintenance yard for the county. Similarly, future development of that property is restricted from allowing basements or residential development.

He said the restrictions placed by the covenants would continue to be enforced even if the city sold the property.

Councilwoman Nancy McArthur expressed excitement that the trail will now be completed and opened by spring of 2020.

She noted that the city already has a head start on the project as the path the trail will follow had already been cleared as the city undertook a sewer project this past year.

Mr. Sharpe said construction on the new trail will begin this fall with completion anticipated next spring.

Joseph Koziol Jr. started his career in journalism in 1981. He joined the Solon Times in 1992 and covered the city of Solon for 10 years. An award winning reporter, Mr. Koziol has been covering Geauga County since 2012.

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