The Ohio to Erie Trail offers the opportunity to experience Ohio’s natural beauty
To travel from Columbus to Cleveland or Cincinnati, you may plan to take Interstate 71, a reasonably direct path connecting Ohio’s largest cities. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could consider exploring the Ohio to Erie Trail by bike or on foot, where you’ll weave through a tapestry of pastoral countryside, quiet woods, historic landmarks, charming small towns, and dynamic metropolitan areas.
The Ohio to Erie Trail is a 326-mile network of multi-use trails that links the Ohio River at Cincinnati to Lake Erie at Cleveland, mostly on land once used for railroads and canals. A place for bicyclists, bird watchers, hikers, runners, cross-country skiers, and nature lovers alike, the Ohio to Erie Trail offers scenic views and dedicated space for recreation.
For those who aren’t quite ready to commit to all 326 miles of the trail, there are ample accessible trail offerings in central Ohio. The Ohio to Erie Trail connects places like Mount Vernon, Westerville, Columbus, Galloway, and London, traversing local trails including the Westerville Bikeway, Alum Creek Trail, Lower Scioto Greenway, Hilltop Connector, and Camp Chase Trail.
For Jody Dzuranin, Executive Director of the Ohio to Erie Trail Fund—whose mission is to develop, maintain, and promote the Ohio to Erie Trail—the trail is more than a place for locals to enjoy the outdoors. It’s a destination that’s putting Ohio on the map.
Pictured: Memorial honoring Ed Honton, founder of the Ohio to Erie Trail Fund. The bronze plaque is located along the Alum Creek Trail, which is part of the Ohio to Erie Trail, in Columbus.
“While a large majority of our visitors are from Ohio, we’re attracting people from other states and countries,” said Dzuranin, who has been involved with the organization for more than a decade, including previously serving on its Board of Directors. “People often compare us to established trail systems and say that we really shine.”
The Ohio to Erie Trail Fund hopes the trail will one day become the longest fully-connected, off-street, and paved recreational trail in Ohio. The organization is nearing that goal: 90 percent of the Ohio to Erie Trail is now designated trail, with the remaining 10 percent connected by streets and rural roads.
The organization began its work in 1991, when avid bicyclist Ed Honton founded the Ohio to Erie Trail Fund. An engineer by trade, Honton had a vision to develop a cross-state trail that would provide year-round access to outdoor recreation. Honton passed away in 2005, but his legacy lives on through the Ohio to Erie Trail. Today, Honton is memorialized on a large bronze plaque along the Alum Creek Trail.
“Ed understood transportation, bicycling, and the rail lines, and he was able to bring those tools together in his vision,” said Dzuranin.
In the early days of the organization, the Ohio to Erie Trail Fund largely focused on providing direct funds to local organizations for the acquisition of trail right-of-way. Today, the organization’s role remains that of collaboration, working with individuals, organizations, park districts, local governments, and government agencies to promote the trail.
The Ohio to Erie Trail has become increasingly popular over the years. As Chris Haydocy, Vice President of the Board of Directors at the Ohio to Erie Trail Fund, explained, this has provided economic benefits to local communities along the trail, as more and more trail-goers stop for lunch, browse local shops, or stay the night.
“A trail can often become a gateway to a community,” said Haydocy. “In addition to the health benefits, trails can increase home values, boost tourism, and support local small businesses. The Ohio to Erie Trail is a very valuable resource.”
As the trail inches closer to being fully connected, the Ohio to Erie Trail Fund is looking ahead to its next chapter, particularly as awareness of and tourism to the trail grow. Tom Bilcze, President of the Board of Directors at the Ohio to Erie Trail Fund, said that the organization has its sights set on supporting communities along the trail.
“A trail can often become a gateway to a community. In addition to the health benefits, trails can increase home values, boost tourism, and support local small businesses. The Ohio to Erie Trail is a very valuable resource.”
Chris Haydocy, Vice President of the Board of Directors at the Ohio to Erie Trail Fund
“The trail is in a period of transition,” explained Bilcze. “Our primary focus now is the communities connected to the trail. These trail towns want to be more welcoming to trail users, and we see ourselves as a vehicle that can assist and make that happen.”
In 2019, the Ohio to Erie Trail Fund established The Ohio to Erie Trail Foundation Fund, an Organization Endowment Fund at The Columbus Foundation. Bilcze envisions the Endowment Fund transforming with the organization’s evolving priorities, supporting grantmaking to projects that make the trail more welcoming and accessible to visitors.
When asked what aspect of the Ohio to Erie Trail he enjoys most, Bilcze said it’s the people he meets.
“I love listening to people’s stories,” said Bilcze. “When you talk to people, you hear really interesting stories. So many people are on the trail for a challenge or to try something new. You quickly find out that our work is appreciated.”