By Madeline Ottilie
On Wednesday, a new phase of the Wasson Way trail was opened following a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The new phase begins at Marburg Avenue and heads down through Ault Park. Business owners along the newly opened stretch said the impact has already been felt.
"I've encountered a lot of people that have never even heard of our business, but because they walk or run on the trail, they drive by us all the time," said Young Harwell, supervisor at Hyde Perk.
He said the uptick in business began when the trail, which lies just outside the store's parking lot, opened last year.
"We really felt the surge back in August of last year," said Harwell.
The surge in business months into the COVID-19 pandemic helped to shield them from the negative impact the virus had on other businesses like theirs.
Across the street at Busken Bakery, they've had a similar experience.
"Even people out of town, people who are staying over in Rookwood at some of the newer hotels are then getting out, doing a walk, enjoying the area," said Kathy Birkofer, director of experience at Busken Bakery.
Busken Bakery opened a pop-up window right on the trail to catch people as they're walking by.
"We're starting to see trail-oriented developments pop up around this corridor," said Wade Johnston, director of Tri-State Trails. "What we're going to see happen in the next five to 10 years is more and more businesses making their back door the front door, where they're oriented towards the trail."
Tri-State Trails partnered with the city to secure a $6 million federal grant that helped make the Wasson Way trail possible. Currently the trail stretches from Hyde Park to the edge of the Xavier University campus.
"What I think is so powerful about the trail is how we're connecting communities that have historically been disconnected," said Johnston.
When complete, the trail will be just over 6 miles. It will join a 34-mile trail loop that will connect it to the Little Miami Scenic Trail, the Ohio River Trail and others.
I think there's potential for every single community," said Harwell. "What's been so great about the trail is that it will have impact on every community that it touches."
Ultimately, the trail will continue into Avondale. The project is expected to be completed by spring 2024.