ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The city of St. Clairsville is known for its history, architecture and retail offerings, but the winding and scenic National Road Bikeway is arguably the largest source of pride in the community and draws thousands of people to the Ohio Valley every year.
The 4-mile long trail extends across the city and features landmarks such as a nationally recognized tunnel and a large gazebo with sand flooring made from the former sidewalks of downtown St. Clairsville.
"I think the thing people point to the most over my time here is the bikeway," said Dennis Bigler, city service director. "It has been featured in eight or 10 books. I hear from older people who have lived here for decades who still say how proud they are of the bike trail. It's a thing that really came together, a lot of good fortune collided to make the bike trail."
A sign marks the National Road Bikeway in St. Clairsville.
Photo by Sarah Harmon
The trail's tunnel was built in 1902 and allows the bikepath to stay level by cutting through a hillside. Bigler said the bike trail was the main feature on the National Rails and Trails book "Tunnels on Trails."
He said the $2 million tunnel restoration project conducted recently has further improved the tunnel.
A wooden arbor on the trail with automatic misters that spray water on bike riders is also a favorite on the trail, Bigler said.
By the end of this month, Bigler said, the Ohio Department of Transportation will be removing the Interstate 70 bridges over the trail to replace them with a second tunnel. By this fall, the tunnel should be in place.
Bigler said the bikeway and the continuous downtown restoration projects remain the two most recognizable assets of the city.
"Those have been the two core elements of our city for a long time," Bigler said.
"Those are projects that really don't have an end to them, that are continually improving and changing."
To keep the historic integrity of the city's infrastructure, Bigler said St. Clairsville uses architectural review to make sure new buildings fit with the historic district.
"People here have a lot pride in their properties," Bigler said. "Private properties are very well maintained. We, as the city government, try to keep the public properties well maintained as well. We work in concert, and that's what makes the community."
He said hard economic times have impacted St. Clairsville, as have funding cuts at the state level. Officials are trying to remain fiscally conservative right now, but they are hopeful that the shale gas and oil industry making its way into the city will bring some support for the local economy.
Bigler added that the mostly residential city still boasts the Ohio Valley Mall on its eastern outskirts as its biggest retail center.