Ross County – The “Paint Creek Recreational Trail” has serious woes, but the there is now an action plan to deal with them.
The Ross County Park District hosted a public meeting Monday to outline their short- and long-term goals. Extreme stream erosion at three spots on the trail is a major concern.
The district is responsible for the paved rails-to-trails path outside of the City of Chillicothe within Ross County.
The cycling, running, and walking Paint Creek Recreational Trail is about 33 miles long, connecting Chillicothe, Frankfort and Washington Court House. It is mostly built on railroad beds and bridges of two B&O divisions that were abandoned in the 1980s.
The trail is one of the longest, and considered one of the most scenic, in Southern Ohio.
The stream that the railroad was built along, the North Fork of Paint Creek, is cutting into three areas just east of Frankfort and west of Sulphur Lick Road and the Hopewell earthworks park.
The park district explained last fall that two big factors have contributed to the erosion problems: modern EPA and Army Corps of Engineer regulations to protect the stream that the railroad didn’t have to deal with, and deferred long-term trail maintenance partly because of park district funding issues.
Ted Hagarman, Ross County Park District project manager and coordinator for the trail, gave a presentation in the meeting room of the Carlisle Building in downtown Chillicothe.
Among short-term goals, Hagarman listed crack and root repair for the asphalt pavement, ditch and culvert work, and vegetation maintenance. The latter includes cutting out invasive species like shrub honeysuckle, and dying trees that become hazards.
Among long-term goals (looking beyond about five years) he listed repairing and replacing aging wooden flooring and superstructure of the several bridges, repaving, and especially fixing the “slip and erosion zones” that are eating into the trail.
He said the district will work on slowing the erosion while getting fully engineered plans. The work would include installing construction netting, planting native species of trees like willow, and laying up sandbags on the banks.
The Tri-County Triangle Trail, a volunteer nonprofit that worked to originally acquire the abandoned railroad beds and then donate it to county park districts, continues as a support group. They were clearly disappointed with the condition of the trail as it had become in the fall, but in Monday’s meeting they showed appreciation and support for the park district.
Hagarman said the park district tried to get a “Transportation Alternatives” grant – and their application was well-ranked – but the final amount of funds available were so low that they could not get any. He said they plan to apply for the next round, in 2024.
He said that will not slow their immediate work, and they are pushing ahead regardless of grant funding; their short-term goals can be funded within their normal budget.