iTowpath is a plan that aims to improve connectivity, safety, accessibility, and aesthetics of the Towpath Trail in downtown Akron, creating a more connected and vibrant city. This plan was originally funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in 2015 after the realization that while complete, there are still many ways the Towpath Trail could be improved to better serve the community and visitors.
All improvements to the Towpath Trail are based on community engagement and feedback. By working with Alta Planning + Design, the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, along with many dedicated partners held a three-day community engagement session at the beginning of the project that garnered hundreds of comments on the state of the Towpath Trail and possible projects.
To date, more than $750,000 has been granted to the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition to implement these trail-improvement projects, which span from the Mustill Store in the north to Summit Lake in the south.
View and download the iTowpath Executive Summary map to learn more about the project.
The Towpath Trail through downtown Akron winds along sidewalks, through parks and under highways. Visitors often express their confusion when trying to find their way, which is why a new wayfinding system is being implemented to help people better find their way and connect them with destinations on and off the Towpath Trail. To be completed Summer 2016.
Through public engagement, many Towpath Trail users expressed they felt uneasy and unwelcome when traveling through an underpass. There are more than 10 underpasses throughout a three-mile stretch of the Towpath Trail through downtown Akron. In an effort to change these perceptions, the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition Associate Board has led a committee to assess the underpasses, create design plans, and implement the plans with the help of volunteers and staff support. Work has been completed or started on five underpasses, with more work to come.
The northern entrance to downtown Akron via Towpath has historically greeted people with only various shades of gray and no indication of the continuing trail, causing many visitors to turn around. This changed with the assitance of artists Jessica Lofthus and John Comunale who created a mural and archway respectively, to enhance the northern entrance to downtown Akron via the Towpath Trail. Completed in June 2016, these enhancements encourage people in downtown Akron toward Lock 4 Park.
To improve connectivity between the Towpath Trail and downtown Akron's business corridor, the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, Downtown Akron Partnership, City of Akron, and Knight Foundation installed a cycle track on Main Street. The cycle track spans nearly half a mile, looping back to the Towpath Trail, and provides added safety for bicyclists. As part of the City of Akron's TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant, the cycle track will be extended farther north along Main Street for improved connectability.
Additional Towpath Trail connections to specific destinations in downtown Akron were identified. The connections are intended to encourage Towpath Trail users to adventure off the trail and explore experiences throughout the city. Connections include signs designed through the wayfinding signage plan and markers on the sidewalks where the connection travels. Connections to date include the Akron Zoo, Akron Art Museum, Northside District, and The University of Akron.
Bicycle service stations were installed along the Towpath Trail and at varying destinations to allow bicyclists to make quick fixes to their bike when in need. More than 10 service stations have been installed in Akron, with the stations becoming so popular they have been added in other cities and towns throughout the National Heritage Area.
The community engagement portion of the project is not over. We want to continue receiving feedback and involvement as we move forward. If you are intersted in getting involved with a project or would like to give feedback, please submit a response via our online comment box.