ALONG THE WAY: A Kent to Mogadore Reservoir trail?

David Dix Published:

In the great ideas department, here's one I heard this past week.

Mike Kostensky, a Brimfield Township trustee, said that he and his fellow Brimfield and Suffield township trustees, are talking with the Portage Park District to find a way to extend the Portage Hike and Bike Trail into Brimfield and Suffield townships.

The first phase would be a 7.2-mile trail from Kent to beautiful Mogadore Reservoir. The second phase would extend the trail to the Wingfoot Lake Recreational area.

Like many good ideas, this one is looking for money.

"We're hoping to find a grant to help us get started," said Mike, owner of Mike's Place, a popular restaurant.

The Portage County Park District does a wonderful job with scarce resources, but has no ongoing levy funding, whereas many of its neighbors do. The district depends on allocations from the county general fund and gifts to the Portage County Park District Foundation. Chris Craycroft, the director of the park district, does a wonderful job of leveraging scarce money to win grants and if she had the support of modest levy, she'd bring in lots more money. That would enable the establishment of more hike and bike trails and the acquisition and set aside of some of Portage County's gorgeous outdoors.

I am not a competitive bicycle rider, but as someone who enjoys weekend bicycling, I find the Towpath Trail in Summit and Cuyahoga County in summer congested. More trails in Portage County would be popular, I think, and Mike agrees.

"It would attract people from Summit County to the outdoors of Portage County, he said.

Of course, if The Portage, the hike and bike trail that connects Tallmadge, Kent, and Ravenna, were ever extended to Trumbull County, it could hook up with the Great Ohio Lake-to-River Greenway that, nearly complete, goes from Geneva on the Lake through Youngstown to East Liverpool.

Transporting Ravenna Flagpole

Have you ever wondered how a 150-foot flagpole like the one in front of the Portage County Courthouse could have been transported in 1893 from Cleveland to Ravenna?

Jack Schafer, the Ravenna businessman who, with Attorney Peggy DiPaola, serves as a founder of and leader in the Friends of the Flagpole Association, may have figured out the answer.

The Ravenna Flagpole, which features a welded tubular 50-foot steel pole mounted on a 100 ft. steel lattice box, was built by the Van Dorn Iron Works in Cleveland whose Cleveland factory stood adjacent to the Cleveland-Pittsburgh rail line that passed through Ravenna intersecting with West Main Street close to where McDonald's now stands.

Logically, Jack's note speculates, the box structure, with three components, could have been easily transported on that rail line from Cleveland to West Main Street in Ravenna and then transported by horse and wagon up Main Street to the Portage County Courthouse where it has stood for more than 100 years.

Van Dorn built the flagpole, utilizing the same technology used to build the Eiffel Tower in 1889. The company was founded in Akron by James Van Dorn in 1872. He started out as a manufacturer of decorative iron fences for upscale homes and commercial properties.

Soon relocated to Cleveland, the Van Dorn Iron Works underwent rapid expansion as it diversified. At one time, it was the nation's largest manufacturer of jail cells. By the beginning of the 20th century, the company's leaders, foreseeing the rise of the automobile, became a major producer of steel frames, fenders, and other auto parts. Van Dorn pioneered in the development of the mechanical dump-truck hoists. It became a major producer of metal postal boxes, the kinds one used to see on street corners in residential neighborhoods. It produced plate armor for tanks during war-time.

It eventually got into food containers and then, seeing the coming of plastics, the production of machines that extrude plastics.

As late as 1985, the company had 19 plants in seven states, Puerto Rico and Canada. It fought off a hostile takeover attempt, but accepted a more friendly offer from a U.S. based company. That owner sold the plastics extrusion machine operation to a German company, Mannesmann AG Co. It formed the Van Dorn Demag Corp. as an American subsidiary. It then closed the downtown Cleveland operation and relocated to Strongsville, where it continues as an heir to a proud industrial history.

The Ravenna flagpole is one of the few survivors of the steel lattice box technology that in the late 19th and early 20th century was used to erect flagpoles in towns all over the United States. Its distinction as such and its place as an iconic structure in Ravenna and at the Portage County Courthouse make its repair and maintenance an urgent and very positive undertaking.

David Sommers marks 30th year

At Thursday's Kent United Service Organization dinner, at which Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Jacyees and Kent Junior Mothers came together, I was seated at a table next to David Sommers, the architect and founder of David Sommers & Associates, located in offices above Hometown Bank on Kent's North Water Street.

Dave told me his firm is marking its 30th year in business and has 12 architects, all of them graduates of what is now called the Kent Sate University College of Architecture and Environmental Design.

One of Kent State's premier professional programs, the college in 2015 is scheduled to move into its new $40 million building on the Esplanade between the campus and Kent's downtown. Its dean is Douglas Steidl, FAIA.

The late Joe Morbito, a gregarious dynamo, well-liked on campus and off, founded the school of architecture in 1947 and Dave told me Mr. Morbito was still running KSU's architecture program when he was a student. The library for the College of Architecture and Environmental Design bears Morbito's name.

Ravenna Chamber luncheon

The Ravenna Area Chamber of Commerce's monthly breakfasts are difficult for some to attend so chamber Executive Director Jack Ferguson and this year's chamber president, Bruce Kirby of Hometown Bank, decided to try a lunch and invited tax specialist Debbie Petrone of Schlabig to be the speaker.

The result was an audience of 40 who assembled in the banquet room of the English Pub on Ravenna's East Main Street.

Encouraged by the turnout, both men said the luncheon format would be tried again. In the meantime, the monthly breakfast sessions at Susie K's Cafe in Jack Kohl's building across from Walgreen's drug store will continue.

Listening to Mrs. Petrone's excellent discourse made me wish I had studied more accounting.

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