Revitalizing Ohio's Canals - Sky King's Proposal

Submitted by Jeff Buster on Thu, 12/09/2004 - 13:49.

Highway exits demand urban sprawl with all the trappings for the 1-$top
American lifestyle of fast food, heart burn and gas at the expense of
our environmental health (trees, oxygen, wetlands), peace of mind and
self-respect. Even without it's steel mills, NE Ohio still has
the dirtiest air in the country, 'progress' is faceless and war over oil
has no future in tomorrow's fast lane so take a moment to air the view:

Long before disposable income, say 1825, we talented immigrants
engineered a series of canals in OH, PA, NY, IN, etc. ~ some over 350
miles long. In one case, two short canals provided 'clear sailing'
between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico (instead of around by
ocean), but canals and their quaint little villages were hastily
abandoned for the faster railway, again passed by a new 'Interstate'
somewhere off in the distance while the vanishing American landscape lay
absent of it's original intent.

Like only four other remote destination states, Ohio is surrounded
mostly by water (not by land) and is the only state bordered by two
distinctly separate, major sweet-water systems to access the highest
number of diverse locations with services and products throughout the
belly of North America by connecting Lake Erie to the Ohio River.
Although having the greatest equity reach to a variety of untold
portside attractions, it remains an unknown fact because we no longer
make any 'connection' between these two incredible world class bodies of
water any more - we do not even utilize our waterways as productively as
where we originally came from to begin with: Europe, where it
incorporates transportation, power, irrigation, fishing, pleasure,
romance, exercise, you name it....

Our canals were once attached to watersheds like NE Ohio's magnificent
Cuyahoga Valley and magical Beaver Creek, together being the shortest
route (in our hemisphere) to navigate between Montreal and New Orleans.
As referenced above, this simple link was only 80+ miles long: between
Cleveland and E.Liverpool (Pittsburgh) via the Ohio/Erie Canal (CVNRA)
and the magical Beaver/Sandy Canal (vacant). If reactivated to a
fair degree, we could mend the torn pockets of isolation by sewing the
seeds of balance with far reaching results to off-set polluted
conjestion, apathy and obesity, therefore understand the potential we
may have over the future of our common statehood:

1. Lake Erie is accessible to thousands of miles of shoreline, plus the
Atlantic and beyond. Without this short canal link, water travel to
the Gulf is a bit much, but the shortest route today is still popular
even if one must first boat to Detroit, then up Lake Huron, around the
'Glove', down Lake Michigan and river over to The Mississippi, leaving
no time to interact with the land, the natives, local flavor or exchange
offerings. A new link would eliminate weeks of choppy miles to
provide unlimited scenic and cultural activities as we revisit history;
restored villages, Amish markets, parks, recreation and green bicycles
with Longaberger baskets, hey ~ better than Disney!
For starters, let's at least extend the existing CVNRA Tow Path
and Buckeye Trail through a NEW Beaver/Sandy State Parkway to the Ohio
River ~ with an appalachian style bike trail and something for everyone
along the way.

2. More incentives will develop if such a water link could once again
produce a flow of people and commerce along the Ohio River to revitalize
literally hundreds of ghost towns adjoining PA, WV, OH, KY, IN, TN, etc.
~ injecting renewed life, energy, income and health by empowering those
communities with an inter-coastal waterway to count on, forever ~ a
wholesome alternative to clogging up our cities with more (sub)urban
hardship, poverty, pressure and crime.
I always thought it would be great to some day take my kids on a boat
ride from Niagara Falls to St.Louis ~ visiting Lake Erie's fabulous
islands (tops Martha's Vineyard), then miraculously wheeling into the
old paddle haunts of yesterday; like historic Marietta, Huntington,
Portsmouth, Maysville, The Queen City, lovely Madison, Louisville, New
Albany, Evansville and Shawnee after waving goodbye to the banjo picker
on the majestic Delta Queen.

3. If a waterway could be a simple artery implant for new circulation,
then we must co-ordinate the necessary research (emerging technology,
projections, engineering, etc.) to consider a direct transport line
along our neglected and impoverished 90 mile OH/PA border. If
feasible, it will support such referenced features above plus revive
everything between Erie and Pittsburgh, serving greater Youngstown,
Sharon ~ on down to the Ohio River....
For the first time in 100 years, OH and PA may no longer be broker than
those other charming destination states, but instead brokers of a
remarkable network of economic development activity directly to at least
6 states + Canada with noticeable benefits distributed to over 50
million people so maybe these endless water exits can provide abundant
trade, bootstrap profit and growth from such a relatively small link to
the vast opportunities of sustainable systems and open space we left in
the dust - we are already losing college grads, jobs, quality of life
and everything else....

Call it fiction or just a wet dream, the demographics alone make it far
more practical than sniffing around Mars for those mysterious canals,
c'mon.... I can understand circling OUR planet, but it doesn't take
a rocket scientist to figure out that earth needs to survive right here
at home with real space probing (parachute money) before global warming
forces us to - talk about a nightmare; in 25 years Glacier National Park
will no longer have glaciers, period, gone and those billion dollar/week
over-seas occupations are not going to solve it either. It is time
to take stock of our direction asap because we probably will not be able
to attack our own emission problems, fuel consumption or greenhouse
gases in time to stop the polar ice caps from melting so unlock the door
to a broader perspective and insist priorities be focused back here in
the heartland of our last and only frontier....
That's about it for now and there ain't no jury out on this subject, but
there are ways to learn more if you are up to extending our legacy of
the inquiring mind over our salvation.
What more can be said about the prosperity of these 2 tremendous natural
resources I have discussed? According to science, education and
religious teachings: (re)connecting to our source is always righteous,
for it is the healing path to freedom, the essence of our redemption,
here on out called: INSOURCING.
Imagine the possibilities for recovery and the variety of new
permaculture it brings ~ please forward this to anyone who is willing to
chart a course for some pertinent answers, thank you.
James Franklin (Sky) King
Independence, Ohio 44131
(Affiliations: National Trust for Historic Preservation, NCARB, ASID,
CVNRA, Sierra Club, Ohio Environmental Council, Ohio City and Tremont
redevelopment, Entrepreneurs for Sustainability, Westcreek, etc.)

PS - Aside from the direct benefits, many other ideas spring up, for
example: manufacturing renewable hydro-electric boats and fuel-cells
that are energy efficient, clean and quiet.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jim grew up on the handlebars of Cincinnati and recalls an awesome trek
over one of it's canals, on a swaying footbridge at a very early age,
long before Eagel Scout training straightened him out.
Later, he graduated from The Ohio University and lead a variety of
building design projects throughout the US as both a registered
Architect and Interior Designer, but his work on historic preservation,
urban renewal and protecting greenspace swept him away from ego/market
driven con(dis)struction into appropriate technology, conservation
issues, recycling and eco-tourism. When it comes to new
'development', democracy will be compromised without enlightenment,
honesty, disclosure, public trust, checks and balances or open
investigation - the challenge is always political. For Jim,
bending the ears of appointed officials has been difficult, if not
demoralizing (see The History of Rockside, Suburban Gorilla, etc.) and
the struggle is a no-brainer against the fast buck or mob mentality....
Today, you may find him roaming his region's only natural rainforest
(under such compromise), witnessing nature's glorious representation
with every step while waiting for our 'leaders' to get out of their
armored limousines and take a hike.

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