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Ghost roads help us connect to the area’s past

If you look hard enough in the green spaces around Marietta you can frequently find evidence of old roads that have been allowed to return to nature. Looking for them is sometimes harder than just looking on an atlas since many of the abandoned or never developed roads still exist on different maps.

Growing up I lived on the end of Channel Lane. Not the end that has The Marietta Times on it. The other end. When Channel Lane goes up the hill it makes a sharp turn to the left and becomes Becker Lane. If you go straight, it will be on what would have been Channel if the developers had ever finished what they started in the 1960s. Some of the homes on Sunset Lane were built to connect to Channel Lane, but the road was never built. My parent’s house had a garage and a driveway that did not connect to anything. My dad mowed “the street” for years, he even built a little bridge over the ditch so people could go from their back yards to the area. I walked the area recently and was pleased that the neighborhood still keeps the area mowed, in what has become a shared extension of their yard.

Last week I wrote about Walnut Hill Drive, that decades after being closed became part of a trail. It’s by no means the only “street” in town that is now utilized as trail space. The area west of Aurora Street has several abandoned streets, some of which are now part of Marietta’s trail network.

A visit online to Google Maps will show you property lines, and since many of the rights of way for the streets still exist, you can clearly see where the streets would have been. Look closely and you will find streets that were either planned or abandoned all over town.

On page 2 today is a photo of a section of North Hills Trail that runs directly down the middle of what at one time was Terrace Avenue. The Norwood street now ends just past the last house. It then comes to a grass-covered trail, which oddly has guardrails, at times, running down both sides of it. When it reaches the top of the hill it finally becomes a true trail that travels through the woods behind Washington State Community College. Historical topographical maps show a structure near the top of the road. The street was likely abandoned when the house no longer existed.

The construction of Interstate 77 severed some roads into pieces. Mill Creek Road, home of the Thermo Fisher Scientific company, ends a short time later at a parking lot for a series of trails between there and Ohio 821. The road once traveled across where the interstate is before looping back to the west and connecting to the state highway. That section is abandoned and is where several trails converge. Mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners at the end of Lost Hollow Trail likely have no knowledge that they are crossing part of the road from which they started several miles before.

People using area trails should understand that at some point nearly all the trees in the area were cut for timber. This required crude logging roads to be built. The trees may have grown back, but the roads remain and they crisscross much of the green spaces in the area. Nearly all the trails in the area show evidence at some point of a road or street that no longer exists.

Paying close attention to the land that we use can give us all insight into how the land was used in the past. Looking at historical maps can, at times, put a name with the street, or if you are lucky, show you where homes once stood. Scars on the land can allow us all to be urban archaeologists and help tie the present to the past.

Art Smith is online manager of The Marietta Times. You can reach him at asmith@mariettatimes.com.

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