Winter unkind to River Trail

Marietta’s River Trail has apparently survived one of the harshest winters in recent years without much damage to the four-mile pathway along the Muskingum and Ohio rivers.

“I have no complaints, and I’m here all year in all kinds of weather, on my bike or walking,” said Dwight Norman of Vienna, W.Va., who was walking the older section of the trail near the Washington County Fairgrounds Thursday.

He did say that some water tends to pool on one area of the trail, just behind the fairgrounds horse barns.

“But I can easily ride around it,” he said.

Vicki Thieman of Churchtown and her mom, Linda Stewart from Marietta were also walking the trail and noted the drainage issue.

“There’s a lot of water and mud behind the horse barns sometimes,” Thieman said. “And ice forms in some areas when it’s cold. But I am glad we have the trail here.”

Eric Lambert, project engineer with the city engineering department, said he’s had no complaints about the trail this year.

“I can’t say I’ve been able to walk the entire trail since the weather broke, but I’ve heard no complaints at this time,” he said.

One low section of the newest leg of the River Trail, along the Ohio River between Fourth and Fifth streets, has been flooded at least once over the winter. But Lambert said that problem was anticipated.

“During the design phase we knew flooding would happen there and that section would become inundated by the river,” he said, adding that periodic flooding shouldn’t damage the trail, and rip-rap (rock) has been laid along the river side of the trail in those areas to provide stabilization of the river bank.

Lambert said the engineering department watches for other impacts on the trail, including drainage problems and asphalt surface issues.

“The asphalt will eventually break down,” he said, noting that most asphalt paving has a 12- to 15-year lifespan before re-paving is needed.

The oldest section of the River Trail, along the Muskingum River from Indian Acres Park to the Marietta Harbor, was originally paved in the fall of 2004.

That section is showing some wear and tear, including a few cracks in the pavement in one area of the trail along West Montgomery Street near the Marietta Boat Club.

“A sinkhole about two or three feet across developed there and had to be patched,” said Marietta Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, who has recruited several volunteer groups to help maintain the trail and surrounding areas.

He said other areas of cracked and depressed surface also exist along the trail near the county fairgrounds, and noted that water pooling on the trail gets into cracks, and with alternate freezing and thawing can seriously damage the trail surface.

Kalter said volunteers from the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at Marietta College worked April 5 to apply mulch around shrubs planted on the upper side of the River Trail between Fourth and Fifth streets, and more mulch was to be applied in that area Friday.

“High water in November washed the mulch away, and some of the roots were exposed,” he said. “We’re hoping those plants will survive.”

Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, said the city should have a maintenance plan in place to maintain and repair the River Trail and other city recreational assets like tennis and basketball courts.

“But we also need someone to monitor our parks and other areas and bring any issues to our attention before they become a bigger problem,” he said.

Vukovic said city council has attempted to set aside money for a maintenance fund in the past, but it eventually had to be spent on other projects.

He said a fund should also be developed in the city budget that would be strictly dedicated to maintenance of parks and recreational facilities.

Construction on the final phase of the River Trail is expected to get under way in the spring of 2016, according to Lambert.

The project will extend the trail from its current terminus at Eighth and Jefferson streets along the Ohio River to Duck Creek, then north to a bridge that will be built to carry the trail across Duck Creek and east to Cogswell Drive in the Walmart complex in an area between the Aldi’s supermarket and Pioneer Family Golf Center properties.

“We’re working through the design now,” Lambert said. “In the next year we’ll be applying for grants, hoping to begin work on the final phase by the spring of 2016.”

He said grants are being sought from the Clean Ohio Trails Fund and Recreational Trails Fund as well as Ohio Department of Transportation Alternative Transportation funding and grants from the Wood, Wirt and Washington Counties Interstate Planning Commission.

A rough estimate of the cost of the final phase is around $1.5 million.

“Construction of the bridge across Duck Creek represents about 60 percent of that cost,” Lambert said.