Canton Repository

June 3, 2004

Regula fishing for canal funds

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Rep. Ralph Regula is seeking an additional $10 million in federal funds to help complete the development of the Ohio & Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor.

Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, introduced legislation Wednesday to authorize the funding, which would supplement an initial $10 million that Congress authorized eight years ago.

“We are very excited and greatly appreciative,” said Daniel M. Rice, president and chief executive officer of the Ohio & Erie Canal Corridor Coalition.

He said work on the canalway is only about one-third complete, even though more than $280 million has been spent on preserving and maintaining it.

The corridor, following a portion of the 19th-century Ohio & Erie Canal route, runs from Cleveland through Massillon and Canton into Dover and New Philadelphia.

In its heyday, the canal went all the way to Portsmouth on the Ohio River. It provided a continuous link from the Atlantic seaboard to the Gulf of Mexico, via the Great Lakes and Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

So far, the coalition, a private nonprofit group, has developed 70 miles of the 101-mile canal towpath, Rice said. Hikers, bikers and horse riders use the developed portion of the path.

The funding also has been used to preserve more than 25 historic buildings along the corridor. It has paid for natural preservation and educational programs.

Money spent until now includes $277 million from state and local governments and private donors, and $7 million from Congress. Regula said the $7 million has helped leverage the other contributions. Another $3 million is left from the original congressional allotment, but it’s expected to be exhausted within a few years.

Future plans include building a visitors center in each of the four counties that the corridor traverses — Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark and Tuscarawas. The coalition also is developing a marketing and interpretive program, Rice said.

Regula’s legislation would authorize another $10 million to be spent over a 15-year period. Passage this year is unlikely.

“Cities and towns are prospering as a result of tourism and increased visitors” to the canalway, Regula said. “This progress will persist as the canalway continues to develop.”