Seven-year-old Kenny Zerefos' favorite thing about bike riding is balance, and his father recognizes the milestone of this first trip on the Western Reserve Greenway without training wheels.
"It's really neat he's getting so good on his bike," Steve Zerefos, of Warren, said.
Zerefos, who has ridden the path all the way into Ashtabula, said he is excited about the connection of regional bike paths to make one, large path.
Justin Sherwood, 9, of Southington, rides his skateboard along the trail.
"I've been looking forward to this for years," he said.
Soon Zerefos and others will be able to walk, jog and bike ride farther on the trail.
The Trumbull County Planning Commission has begun planning Phase III of Western Reserve Greenway, which will connect the bikeway to a new bikeway to be built in Warren at North River Road. Construction is set to begin in fall 2009 and end in spring 2010. Trumbull County Metroparks will maintain the trail after completion.
The two links are part of the larger four-county Great Ohio Lake to River Greenway, a collection of smaller trails that comprises one regional route which, when completed, will extend from Lake Erie at Ashtabula Harbor to the Ohio River in East Liverpool.
The idea for the Great Ohio Lake to River Greenway was formed more than 20 years ago, said Julie Green, grants coordinator at the Trumbull County Planning Commission. More than 60 miles of the Great Ohio Lake to River Greenway has been completed. When finished, the four-county bike trail will be more than 100 miles.
Jonathan Millea, planner at the Trumbull County Planning Commission, said they have been working on Phase III for little more than a year. Once the Trumbull County Planning Commission finishes defining the route, consultants will analyze the trail to see how to engineer the trail to cause the least possible environmental impact. After the Ohio Department of Transportation reviews and approves the route, they can move ahead with construction.
Millea said construction doesn't take as long as the engineering and environmental studies do. While construction takes three months to complete, studies take three years to do.
The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program funded more than a million dollars for Phase III construction, funded in part with a local match of $100,000 from the Clean Ohio Trail Fund and $210,000 awarded to Trumbull County from a State Capital Budget grant.
Even without the additional trail in Warren, the Western Reserve Greenway been popular with locals.
The Trumbull County Metroparks is considering expanding their 34-car parking lot at Sunside Pavillion in Champion because it's becoming full, Millea said.
Some have positive things to say about the trail.
Though it was her first time at the trail, Shannon Fisher and her daughter, Bethany Coe, of Champion, were impressed with the scenery.
"It's very nice, very shaded," Fisher said.
Fisher said she and Coe arrived at the trail before the heat came and rode about four miles. During their ride, she noticed that quite a few people were there, she said.
Joan Wells of Cortland is a regular on the trail, having started riding here about four years ago. Typically, she tries to arrive between 8:30 and 9 a.m. on weekends and comes once or twice after work when her schedule permits.
Wells said she likes the trail because she doesn't have to ride on the street.
"I have no intention of being hit by a car," she said.
Millea said a small handful of individuals use the bike path as an alternative form of transportation during warmer months. After Phase III, the bike path will pass near major destinations like Kent State Trumbull Campus and the Warren city limits. After Phase IV, the path will connect to Niles.
"That could create a huge opportunity for transportation," Millea said.
Millea said that just about everything is engineered in Trumbull County. Phase IV will cover the area between Niles and Warren, connecting the proposed Niles Greenway at State Route 46 and Robbins Avenue to the proposed Warren Bikeway.
Phase IV will be finished within three to five years, Millea said, adding that this is a "very optimistic" estimation. Between 2010 and 2012, everything should be complete in Trumbull County.