Green Belt Parkway
Envisioned as a gateway through the North End to downtown Toledo from I-280, the 3.5 mile Buckeye Basin Green Belt Parkway has a very interesting history. Most recently, the roadway was mired in 25 years of controversy and political quagmire when it was designed and built in the last quarter of the 20th century. Protesters held up construction because it crossed through one of the last remaining wet lands in the area. Others were concerned about possible contamination of the surrounding soil since the plans also called for the roadway to be constructed through what was a dumping ground that contained decades of industrial waste. After more than 25 years of debates and protests - including a man chaining himself to a bulldozer in 1996, the western part of the Parkway connecting I-280 with downtown was completed in 1999 - but only after the Ohio Department of Transportation agreed to mitigate the impacts to the surrounding wetlands by creating the Detwiler Marsh.
The other interesting history about the Greenbelt Parkway is its relationship to the Miami and Erie Canal. Today, motorists travel through the North End via the Parkway or head back and forth from Maumee and Toledo via the Anthony Wayne Trail but chances are few realize that the road they now drive on was built on top of what was the Miami & Erie Canal.
Built between 1825 and 1845, the 301-mile canal ran from Toledo to Cincinnati and helped build Ohio by allowing the easy transportation of agricultural and manufactured goods. The canal enjoyed a very short starring role in the development of the area as the railroad quickly became the major mode for transportation. The canal was soon forgotten by major transporters and eventually totally abandoned after a major flood in 1913 caused severe damage its banks and locks. It was eventually refilled in the 1930s as part of the Roosevelt administration's Works Project Administration and the portion south of Toledo became a roadway known as Canal Boulevard. The name was later changed to the Anthony Wayne Trail.
Today there are very few signs of the canal system that spurred the pioneer towns of Vistula and Port Lawrence to merge to become Toledo. However, remnants of the canal can still be seen if you know where to look. For example, if you look closely at the grounds surrounding the Lucas County Courthouse, you'll notice a depression in the lawn on the north side. This was part of the canal that carried traffic up what is now Spielbusch Avenue toward Lake Erie, and east along the present-day Green Belt Parkway.
I often compare the Miami-Erie Canal to America Online (AOL) in the early 1990's. Just as the canal was the most important mode of transportation until the development of the steam train, AOL was the must-have service if you wanted to be part of the digital revolution. It too was quickly displaced by a more effective technology - the Internet and free browser software.