B&O Bike Trail celebrates 20th anniversary

The B&O bike trail, which begins in Mansfield and runs through Lexington and Bellville, ending in Butler.

The B&O bike trail is celebrating its 20th anniversary amid the Richland County Park District’s 50th anniversary celebration.

The storied bike trail begins in Mansfield and runs through Lexington and Bellville, ending in Butler. The trail is a 37-mile round trip, passing through marshes, farmlands, woods and various rivers.

Built in 1995 on the former B&O railroad line, the bike trail was constructed as part of the rails-to-trails initiative in Ohio.

Walking, jogging, biking, roller-blading and cross country skiing can now all be enjoyed along the trail route.

“The unique part of the trail is that it’s a line that links townships,” Jason Larson, the Executive Director of the Richland County Park District said. “It’s a modern day railroad.”

Larson states that one of the goals of the Park District is to invite visitors into each town that surrounds the trail. He encourages local businesses to put their signs along the path in hopes to attract commerce.

“People in local communities can bike, walk and jog while getting involved with other communities,” Larson said.

Each segment of the trail has amenities unique to its locality. Mansfield’s section includes new emergency call boxes and a playground at North Lake Park. Lexington’s portion has a bike shop on Main Street. Bellville features the Dairy Belle and restaurants line the trail in Butler.

All four stops have restrooms and parking with handicapped accessibility. Geocaching is provided every tenth of a mile and bike rentals are available along the trail.

The B&O trail is maintained by volunteers through the Richland County Park District and the Gorman Nature Center for preservation, conservation and recreation. Maintenance along the B&O bike trail is done in large part through volunteer effort.

The park district plans to use aquired grant money to provide new signage, kiosks with information and history elements for the trail next year.

To be a part of the 20th anniversary celebration, pick up the B&O through various heads in Bellville, Mansfield, Lexington or Butler.