SPRINGFIELD TWP.  Trustees, Lakemore Council members, residents and county officials gathered at the Vince Mealy Bicentennial gazebo at Springfield Lake to dedicate the first completed phase of the Spartan Trail.

During the dedication May 19, Springfield Parks Director Doug Foltz thanked the many people that it took to make it happen.

"This is an exciting time for the township, Lakemore and the whole community," he said. "This is our first phase of many miles to come for the future of Spartan Tail."

Foltz said they could not have done this without the grant benefactors. Summit County Public Health donated $3,285 for signage. Creating Healthy Communities through the Summit County Health Department has donated more than $84,500.

"The Ohio and Erie Canal Coalition (OECC) has helped us and nurtured us through this process. They have given us over $10,000 last year," said Foltz.

The township and village plan to apply for a master grant for the entire Spartan Trail that is anticipated to go around the east end of the lake, through Water Works Park in Lakemore and up to the high school as well as through the Tri-County Plaza and along Canton Road. 

The township has been able to "leverage the funds to the point that we have had some of the park employees provide labor and equipment to help extend those dollars even further. That is a big reason why were able to complete 2,600 lineal feet of asphalt trail as Phase I," said Foltz.

This year, 1,350 lineal feet will be added to the trail. The process has begun and is anticipated to be completed this summer.

"Today, we dedicate the beginning of the Spartan Trail - the Lakefront Trail," said Trustee Dean Young. "What we want the people in this community to have is recreational opportunities, and with that comes healthier lifestyle. It brings opportunities for people who want to live here, raise their families and support the businesses,"

Young introduced his colleagues, Trustees Deborah Davis and Joe DiLauro, and leaders from the Village of Lakemore, including Council President Laura Cochran and council member Rich Cole.

"This is an incredible community celebration," said Dan Rice, president of the Ohio & Erie Canal Coalition. "It takes a lot of vision and perseverance. .. It takes that vision to see the opportunity. This is an incredible community asset."

Rice said that generations from now are going to look back and say, "Wasn't that a brilliant idea to develop this trail." 

The future plan is to connect in to the Ohio Canalway Towpath Trail.

Foltz said he first met Nicole Sewell from Summit County Health Department when they received grant dollars to develop the first trail on Pickle Road by Schrop School and the Springfield Sports Complex. That trail started the momentum for the Spartan Trail because it is so well used.

"Without Creating Healthy Communities, we would not have the funds to push forward and build these trails," said Foltz.

Sewell said the Creating Healthy Communities is a program that focuses on increasing physical activity in the community. 

"A couple of us came out last fall to observe the progress," she said. "We took evaluations of people walking and went to businesses just to get opinions of what they thought. ... It has been a huge success and everyone has been so appreciative," she said. 

Springfield Resident and member of the Friends of the Spartan Trail Janie Carlini, who walks the trail every day, spoke to the group.

"Our (Friends of the Spartan Trail) mission is to raise awareness and develop the Spartan Trail in the Springfield Township and Lakemore community for all to enjoy for many years to come," she said. "As we take the first step on this path, we are reminded of how every great trail had a group of people, and ultimately a community, who rallied behind it striving to leave a legacy."

Carlini said they needed the residents help through the purchase of t-shirt's or donating online at the Friends of Spartan Trail website www.friendsofspartantrail.com.