Long ago I worked in a warehouse in Akron, and one day a coworker told me the Ohio and Erie Canal ran just nearby, just down the hill. “Why did you wait this long to tell me?” I needled him, and the next day we visited the canal on our lunch break.
That was in the fall of 1985, and on our break that warm, sunny October day we fought through tall briars choking the former towpath, along what I later learned was called the Cascade of Locks. That brief walk started a lifelong interest in canal history.
I wanted to know where the canal went from there, so I started studying books and maps, and on weekends I went exploring. I visited the Canal Fulton Heritage Society museum and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and I bought what books I could find. I highlighted the canal route on state and county maps, and I marked locks on those maps.
The canal at that time was largely a solitary place, its towpath a narrow footpath through trees and brambles. It was mostly unwatered, and thick plants hid many locks. I filled a large ring binder with photographs of the O&E, and I developed a dream of seeing a Tuscarawas Valley Park to mirror the CNVP to the north. I soon learned that a group of people was working on a similar idea, which became the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, established in 1996. The corridor follows the canal from Cleveland in Cuyahoga County through Summit County and Stark County, to south of New Philadelphia in Tuscarawas County.
Mustill Store sits the foot of the Cascade of Locks, facing Lock 15 north of the Akron Summit. When I first visited it, a private owner lived in the lockkeeper’s house and stored his collection of antiques in the store. Now the Cascade Locks Park Association owns and operates the store, which serves as a lovely little museum of Akron canal history. The towpath has been paved with crushed limestone, and what was a narrow path through trees and brambles is a wide, welcoming route along the canal, locks, and rivers, offering a touch of nature within sight in urban areas of city towers and in other places of pastoral vistas.
I visited the store and Lock 15 last Saturday for the first time in years, and I recalled standing at the lock with another coworker, finding peace in the water falling over the lock’s lip during our break from the stress of our jobs. I found that peace again this time, and I was impressed with the museum displays.
The O&E Corridor is at https://www.ohioanderiecanalway.com/