Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country’s most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Ohio that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.

Completing the Ohio to Erie Trail and environmental restoration at Grand Lake St. Marys are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week’s report — two in every state — as part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.

The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. John Kasich and the state of Ohio, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.

“Under the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Ohio and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”

The two projects in Ohio highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:

Ohio to Erie Trail Connections

The Ohio to Erie Trail is intended to be a continuous trail from Lake Erie to the Ohio River, linking lands that railroads and canals formerly used. When completed, it will connect Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati, as well as many other communities. By closing two gaps in the system in Columbus, the route will be completely connected for 160 miles.

The proposed trail sections, Alum Creek and Camp Chase, travel through low-income neighborhoods and would give access to 18 city parks and connect to the Battelle Darby Creek and Big Darby Creek National Scenic Rivers.

This effort would support AGO goals by increasing access to urban green spaces. Both trail projects are construction-ready and have ample support locally and from the state. The Cleveland component proposes to create new urban parks along the mouth and shoreline of Cuyahoga River. To increase recreational access, the project proposes a new launch area for canoes and kayaks and allows for the establishment of a water trail along the Cuyahoga River.

Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed Wetland Development

Grand Lake St. Marys, a 13,500-acre lake in west central Ohio, is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy boating, fishing, and swimming. In recent years the lake’s health has suffered from nearby development and heavy agriculture. High levels of phosphorus, both from within the lake and from the watershed, have produced harmful algal blooms that threaten public health, wildlife, and natural habitat.

The state of Ohio and local partners seek to restore habitat and improve recreational access to the lake. Reestablishing wetlands along the lake’s southern side, where the watershed feeds into the lake, will help filter some phosphorus, thereby improving the quality of water entering the lake.

The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Ohio, for example, the Department could provide financial support for acquiring the land to complete gaps in the Ohio to Erie Trail in Columbus and for acquiring land for two urban parks and creation of public river access in Cleveland.

The Department could also provide technical and financial assistance for environmental restoration and recreation access at Grand Lake St. Marys.

The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.

“The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government’s role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”

For more information on the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, click here.

To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.