Fourteen years of Marietta City and community partnership have resulted in the $3 million, 3.5-mile River Trail.
As recently as Friday, five people working off fines from Marietta Municipal Court infractions and two community volunteers continued repairing the November damages from high water between S. Fourth and S. Fifth streets.
Seven cubic yards of mulch donated by Haessly Hardwood have been placed around the bushes above the trail.
It will take about two additional yards and an hour by volunteers to complete the work.
Heavy work, most likely involving equipment with a blade, will be required to remove the tons of river silt built up on both sides of River Trail. Until that is removed, the silt will continue to pool water on the trail and create slippery conditions.
At least two drains are necessary to allow rain to drain from the trail's low points to the Ohio River. The drains may be as simple as a ton of limestone around four-inch plastic drain pipe. Either city employees or volunteers could build the drains in an hour.
Reports are not in from all 15 Friends of the River Trail groups, but on Community Service Day April 5, the Mid-Ohio Valley Dragon Boaters were out in full force on their Ohio River section. Six members of the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club cleaned and edged the section between the Historic Harmar and Putnam Street bridges. Brian Stine Carpentry was active between S. Fifth and S. Sixth streets.
There still are about five groups needed for the new $1.5 million section between S. Fourth and Jefferson streets.
Friends groups meet on their own schedule, pick up trash, sweep away sweet gum balls and otherwise keep the trail clean. They also report safety and maintenance issues.
Two regular trail users asked when the historic Ohio River pavilion will be repaired. The pavilion is immediate need of support scaffolding to keep it from crashing into the trail if it collapses. The concrete slab also needs to be raised because it is tilting into the Ohio.
Obviously, some of the trail work can be done by volunteers and other by city employees and contracted professionals with heavy equipment.
A serious sink hole on West Montgomery Street has been filled twice in 10 years, but needs immediate attention again before someone is seriously injured. A long crack has developed near the Washington County Fairgrounds fence because of a large sink hole developing there over the past several years. Five feet of trail is breaking away toward the river.
The erosion on the steep Ohio River bank at Third Street is causing the trail there - just three years old - to crack and slump toward the river.
City council provided $2,000 for trail maintenance for the first time in 2013, but less than $500 of the money was used to buy 14 bollards - devices to keep motor vehicles off the trail. The leftover money went back into this year's general fund.
Council representative Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, accurately points out the need for a River Trail maintenance plan. A draft plan was developed and presented three years ago by a Marietta College senior, but never adopted by the city. Why?
While hundreds of people can be seen enjoying the trail in both good and bad weather, efforts are underway to continue the trail in Phase V to Cogswell Lane near Walmart and Phase VI from Indian Acres to the city limits.
Devola volunteers working with the Washington County Engineer are developing long-range plans connecting Marietta to Devols Dam.
Phase IV is being pursued by Main Street Marietta to include the Historic Harmar Railroad Bridge with efforts to connect Marietta to Belpre.
A continued effort will be required by public officials and volunteers alike to grow River Trail into the transportation link, recreational trail and tourist attraction the Mid-Ohio Valley deserves.
Those wishing to volunteer as Friends of the River Trail may contact (740) 373-1784; those wishing to sponsor trees and markers or donate for trail improvements may contact the Marietta Community Foundation at P.O. Box 77, Marietta, Ohio, 45750.
Roger G. Kalter is a lifelong cyclist and member of the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club. He lives in Marietta.