ANDERSTON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A new trail connector near Lunken airport is linking miles of Cincinnati trails that were previously unconnected. The Beechmont Bridge Connector officially opened Wednesday.
Before the connector, bicyclists would have had to ride next to cars on Beechmont Avenue to cross the Little Miami River to get from one trail to another.
"For about six years, I've been riding the bus with my bike on it over the levee or braving, riding with traffic, trying to avoid rush hour," said Tri-State Trails Director Wade Johnston, who lives about a half mile away from the connector. "The bridge, there is no shoulder, so this where you start to sprint to get through."
The project has been in the works for years and costs over $9 million. Great Parks of Hamilton County is responsible for the addition and said pedestrian safety is something they had in mind with this project.
"Being on a road or in traffic, sometimes is necessary in a dedicated bike lane, but the ultimate experience for being outdoor and on a trail is to be in a separate trail environment, so it's safer," said Great Parks of Hamilton County CEO, Todd Palmeter.
The connector is only about a half-mile, but allows pedestrians to safely travel from downtown Cincinnati all the way to Springfield.
"Over 300,000 people that live within a five-mile radius of the Little Miami Scenic Trail will now have trail access because of this project," said Great Parks of Hamilton County Board President Caren Laverty.
The stretch connects to the existing Little Miami Scenic Trail terminus near State Route 32 and will allow trail users to safely travel to the Ohio River Trail. It passes through a new tunnel under the State Route 32 westbound ramp to Beechmont Avenue, and under Beechmont Avenue itself.
The Connector continues over the Little Miami River on a new bridge extension adjacent to, but physically separated from, the eastbound lane of the Beechmont Avenue Bridge. Once across the Little Miami River, it meets up with both the Armleder-Lunken Trail and Lunken Trail, from which users can continue to the Ohio River Trail.
"I actually live in Loveland, so this just opens up so many options for our family to get downtown," said bicyclist Megan Folkerth.
"This network, the infrastructure that so many have been working to build is a foundational part of our collective effort to give everybody access to the neighborhoods, to the commerce centers, the parks where they live, work and play," said Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval.
It’s one piece of a much larger project: the CROWN trail network. The CROWN is a planned 34-mile urban trail loop that will connect 54 neighborhoods. Johnston said he’s hoping the eastern 24 miles of the project will be complete by 2026.
Johnston said this step is a big leap forward.
"It's going to be tourism, economic development, an ability to live next to an amenity," he said. "It's just a game changer for so many people."
There will be a public celebration on October 2 with activities, food trucks, craft beer and more. It’s being held at Otto Armleder Park from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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