Last month we reported on the controversy surrounding the land deal that would establish the Towpath Trail in Cleveland’s industrial Flats (“Who Sold Out the Towpath?” March 10).
The story revealed how the project has become overrun by accusations of fraud and conflicts of interest — time-honored traditions symbolic of all Cleveland development projects. The mudslinging has stalled completion of the popular trail, which winds from just north of New Philadelphia toward downtown Cleveland — but ends a few miles short of Lake Erie.
Now it appears the project won’t be pushing forward anytime soon: A new report released by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources found an appraisal used in the pending transaction lacked “credibility and reasonableness.”
The appraisal in question is one of two that make up the $11 million figure submitted by the Trust for Public Land and the Ohio Canal Corridor, two groups pushing for the Towpath Trail’s completion. The latest review says the market value in the appraisal is wrong.
In light of its ruling, the Department of Natural Resources has held onto $500,000 it was set to fork over for completion of the project.
Dave Vasarhelyi from the Trust for Public Land’s Cleveland office says appraisals used for these types of deals are often rejected, and that his appraiser will have a chance to respond to the ODNR review. “By all means, it does not mean the project is dead,” he says.
In the meantime, the Cleveland Metroparks’ bike path remains open for business, featuring unobstructed access all the way to Lake Erie. — Damian Guevara
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