Northeast Ohio holds one of the United States’ National Parks with the Cuyahoga River running through it. At Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), visitors are able to hike, ride or just take a leisurely walk along the Towpath Trail. The National Park Service (NPS) partners with the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) to provide an alternative method of transportation through the park.
This partnership between the National Park Service and CVSR, a separate 501c3 from the park service, separates responsibilities of the railroad. The NPS owns and maintains the railroad track and the associated infrastructure while CVSR owns and maintains the rolling stock and is responsible for providing the services and programs along the railroad. Without this partnership, the CVSR would not be able to function.
“Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s mission is to provide educational, recreational, and heritage railroad experiences and provide alternative transportation to and within Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Ohio & Erie Canal way.”
Along the 26-mile route (52-miles roundtrip), the train travels from Independence to Akron allowing various stops along the way in the 33,000-acre national park. Riders are able to get off at any of these and then take the train back when it returns.
Following their part in the partnership with the NPS, CVSR provides several unique programs and ways to ride the train through the national park. In 2014, CVSR had 185,912 riders through its various programs.
–Excursion service through CVNP from Independence to Akron year-round.
–Education programs for schools while riding the train with support and partnership of NPS. CVSR also provides scholarships for schools and students for transportation to and from school to the train stations.
– Bike Aboard, Hike Aboard, Run Aboard: This program allows bikers, hikers, and runners the opportunity to go along the Towpath as far as they desire and for only $3 catch the train to return to their origin.
–Steam in the Valley (fall foliage tours)
–Grape Escape (wine-tasting)
–Ales on Rails (beer-tasting)
-Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, and Dinner Along the Cuyahoga
Some of these programs are provided during specific seasons of the year and are reasonably priced. Partnerships with places like Hale Farms, Countryside Conservancy, and Cleveland Bike Tours allow for these programs to run smoothly.
I recently took advantage of the Breakfast Along the Cuyahoga with my fiancé on a dreary Saturday morning. We began at the Rockside Station in Independence making stops at Hale Farm, Penninsula, the Akron Northside Station and back to Independence. Along the way we were served unlimited coffee, tea and water and a lovely four-course breakfast. We were able to enjoy the backdrop of one of our favorite places in Ohio, CVNP, in a way we had not experienced it before. Riders ages one through 75 were aboard with us and each enjoyed the scenery and facts about the park from the volunteer who was in our car, pointing out the bald eagle and Towpath.
Volunteers play a vital role in this small non-profits success. In fact, in 2014, volunteers put in 86,664 hours of service, which is equivalent to nearly 42 full-time employees. Many volunteers enjoy and are knowledgeable about trains serving as trainmen, brakemen, and concessionaires. They also play a critical role in the special programs (like the woman on our train telling us facts about the route).
If you are interested in donating to, volunteering for, or being a passenger on the CVSR, visit www.cvsr.com