CVSR offers unique ways to explore CVNP
By Jennie Vasarhelyi
CVNP — Two train initiatives are rolling out of the proverbial station this summer in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP).
Starting June 9, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) is offering increased Akron service for its scenic excursions and a special $2 Bike Aboard! fare for cyclists. It’s now more convenient and affordable than ever to visit the park by train.
Excursion trains let you tour CVNP while leaving the driving to CVSR. Train windows offer scenic views of the valley as the trains run through the valley bottomlands near the Cuyahoga River and Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Nature abounds along the tracks as they pass through wetlands, fields and forest.
The expanded excursion service substantially increases the days of the week and times of day that trains leave from Akron. Starting June 9, round-trip trains will depart from the Akron Northside Station on Wednesdays through Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. A one-way trip departs at 3:15 p.m. Riders can choose between the Akron South Park Scenic or Akron Peninsula Flyer to explore CVNP by train. Both excursions take you to Peninsula. The Akron South Park Scenic gives riders time to enjoy the restaurants, shops and the Towpath Trail in Peninsula. The Akron Peninsula Flyer is an excursion where riders stay on the train for the full trip.
The second initiative, Bike Aboard!, takes advantage of the train’s location parallel to the Towpath Trail. Using this service, you can bike the Towpath Trail in one direction and hop on the train for a relaxing ride in the other. Your bicycle will be loaded on a baggage car. The ability to put your bike on the train isn’t new, but the $2 fare is new.
The Bike Aboard! service is available on regularly scheduled excursions, which operate Wednesdays through Sundays in the summer. You choose how far you want to go. You can board the train at any of the yellow train stations between Rockside and Akron Northside stations and stop at any other. Different trains operate north and south of Peninsula, the mid-point between Independence and Akron. If you change trains, you will need to pay a fare for each train. Experiment with a short trip, then build up to longer ones as you increase your fitness during the summer. To catch the train for Bike Aboard!, flag down the train at the board stations by waving both arms. Pay your fare when you board. Seats aren’t guaranteed, and the special fee applies only to bicyclists.
A special kickoff for Bike Aboard! will take place June 9. The program, “Bike the Trail, Ride the Rail!,” will include child-friendly activities, museums, costumed interpreters and more along the ride of your choice. The festivities will begin at Akron Northside Station at 9:30 a.m. and Rockside Station at 9:45 a.m.
If you are feeling uncomfortable with how to catch the train for Bike Aboard!, extra assistance will be available on select dates. A park ranger will meet you at the specified boarding station to flag down the train and assist you with the train schedule. The first two dates are June 13 at the Canal Visitor Center Station for the 10:20 a.m. southbound and June 20 at the Akron Northside Station for the 1 p.m. northbound train.
What Bike Aboard! and the expanded
Akron excursion service both offer is a car-free way
to experience CVNP. They also provide a way to connect
to the history of the valley. Trains have been part
of the Cuyahoga Valley since
1880, when the Valley Railway opened to bring coal from
Tuscarawas County to Cleveland, Akron and Canton to
supply the growing industries of the Industrial Revolution.
The Valley Railway also offered passenger service to
the small communities of the valley, making it easier
for residents to access the world beyond the valley.
After a decade of operation,
the Valley Railway became part of the Baltimore &
Ohio Railroad during a period of financial troubles
and consolidation. In the 20th century, competition
from automobiles, trucks and buses caused decline in
both freight and passenger service. Interest in the
railroad, however, remained strong. In the early 1970s,
the Cuyahoga Valley Preservation and Scenic Railway
Association — now known as CVSR — began
offering train excursions in CVNP.
The 2007 initiatives add to the
familiar services that CVSR has traditionally offered.
The railroad operates excursion and special-event trains
on 51 miles of track between Independence and Canton.
For more information about CVSR
programs and Bike Aboard!, visit www.cvsr.com or
call (800) 468-4070. Akron Northside Station is located
on 27 Ridge St. off Howard Street in Downtown Akron.
Rockside Station is located on Old Rockside Road, one
block north of Rockside Road off Canal Road in Independence.
Jennie Vasarhelyi is chief of
interpretation, education and visitor services for Cuyahoga
Valley National Park.
Bikers take advantage of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s Bike Aboard! program last summer.
Photo: Sara Guren, courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park