Rick Hart rode his bike from his Columbiana County home into the Niles Central Park Trail Head with virtually no interruption on Thursday afternoon.
"I think I'm going to Dairy Queen and buy a strawberry shake," Hart, a retired police officer and a bike enthusiast, said. "This has been a great ride."
Hart is one of hundreds of bicyclists who are discovering that the Niles portion of the Great Ohio Lake-to-River Greenway project is primarily completed. All sections of the 4.5-mile bike trail in Niles are finished except the connection between Niles and Warren.
Retired Youngstown police officer Rick Hart rides into Niles on the 100-mile Great Ohio Lake-to-River Greenway, which will have bike trails from northern Ashtabula County through Columbiana County when it is completed. The major portion of the Niles section is complete. Photo by Raymond L. Smith
It has not been determined where the two cities' trails will meet.
The barricade that divided the bike trial between Niles and Weathersfield was removed Sept. 3.
While people have been riding on the bike trail, Mayor Ralph Infante says the official opening of the bike trail likely will not happen for another two weeks.
"We want to get everything right," Infante said. "We will get all of the grass cut, restrooms open and the pavilion prepared."
For Mark Hess, Niles grant coordinator, the completion of the bike trail has been a long time coming.
"This is something I have been looking forward to for the last 10 years," he said.
Hess has been working on the project since 2001.
"This has been the most challenging project that I've been involve with," Hess said. "Because of all of the hard work, I'll have greater appreciation for the trail."
The Niles portion of the bike trail was expected to be completed in 2011, but there was a problem at the bridge over the Mahoning River which was to be torn down and replaced. However, it was determined that the had historical significance and could not be torn down.
A compromise was determined and the work was completed.
The $5.5 million bike trail was nearly completely paid for through federal grants, Hess said.
"The city only paid for 20 percent of the design work for the trail," Hess said. "The federal government paid for 100 percent of the construction costs."
The Warren and Niles paths are part of the larger Great Ohio Lake to River Greenway. The 100-plus mile trail will run from Lake Erie in Ashtabula County, through Trumbull and Mahoning counties, to the Ohio River in Columbiana County.