Monday, February 13, 2012

A 'Hike' into the Past - The Girdled Road and Girdled Road Reservation

The early pioneers of Lake County were more fortunate than many frontiersmen.  Lake Erie, ridges parallel to the shoreline and marked trails from Native American tribes provided a rudimentary transportation system.  By the summer of 1797, the early surveyors Seth Pease, Moses Warren and Theodore Shepard had called for a route from the western Pennsylvania line to the newly founded Cuyahoga River tract.  A year later $6000 in cash was secured and a contract signed with General Simon Perkins for a 'girdled' road.  The road would have  a width of 20' to 33' and bridges in areas unable to be forded.  This newly named 'Girdled' Road would connect the future European Settlers and present Western Reserve settlers with the newly formed city of Cleveland.  It would pass through Conneaut, Kingsfield, and Plymouth Townships.  It would cross the Grand River in Austinburg, and proceed through Thompson, Leroy, Concord and Kirtland Townships.  It would follow the Chagrin River's Indian trails and end in Cleveland.

Small paths had been used by the first settlers.  However the Harpers, Paines, Walworths, and Austins all realized the need for these 'Girdled' roads.  'Girdling' a tree meant cutting through the bark around the tree.  This cut off the nutrients and the tree eventually died.  In this way the next spring saw no leaves come to the tree and shade plants beneath.  Brush was removed, trees cut down for lumber, and uprooted stumps were turned into rough fences.  By 1802 Old Girdled Road was now a wagon path to what is now Route 84.  Eventually Girdled Road -Rt. 84 connected Route 20- Mentor Avenue and in time Chillicothe Road radiated from the early capital of Ohio - Chillicothe.

Today this early road and mosaic of woodlands, meadows and wetlands is preserved.  Over 932 acres encompass the Girdled Road Reservation in Concord Township - the site of General Simon Perkins' original construction camp.  Acquired by Lake Metroparks in 1965, the park has been historically accessed from Radcliffe Road in the South, Girdled Road in the North, and now Concord -Hambden Road at Skok Meadow.  The reservation features over a one mile loop of trails.  One can wander Skok Meadow, view the pond and experience Big Creek Valley.  In winter, trails are groomed and snow shoeing and x-country skiing are permitted.  The woodlands, animal, aviary, and bio-diversity allow for a 'hike' in history year-round.

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