Tallmadge -- The first of three phases of construction to create the new multipurpose Freedom Trail is slated to be completed by the end of December.

The city's Hike & Bike Trail is closed while a contractor for Metro Parks, Serving Summit County works on Phase 1 of the project that involves widening, rebuilding and extending sections of the existing Hike & Bike Trail and installing a new bridge over the portion of the trail that goes over North Munroe Road, according to Metro Parks Spokesman Nate Eppink. This phase, which is projected to cost $1.3 million, is focusing on the 4.2-mile-long section that runs between Tallmadge Circle and Middlebury Road in Kent.

Workers installed trail signs and posts to prevent vehicles from driving on the trail.

The engineering for the second phase of the project, which will create a new portion of the Freedom Trail that will extend west of the Circle for 2 miles, is complete. The construction for Phase 2 will begin sometime in 2013, possibly in the spring, and may be completed by the end of the year.

The park system is still planning the final phase of the project and hasn't released a time frame or start date. However, Eppink said the goal is to have the entire trail completed and open sometime in 2015. The ultimate date is subject to change based whether any problems are encountered or other projects the park system is juggling.

According to Eppink, the project, which is expected to cost a total of $9 million, is on schedule.

The park system is paying for Phase 1 with $975,000 of grant money from multiple sources. It also has been awarded an additional $760,000 from grants for work for the next two phases. Eppink said the rest of the project's costs will be paid for by the park system, and there may be opportunities in the future to apply for more grant money.

"It's a chance to connect new communities," Eppink said about the Freedom Trail as a whole. "When it's completed, phases 1, 2 and 3, it will eventually connect Kent with the city of Akron and pass through Tallmadge. It will provide great recreational opportunity for hikers, for runners, for cyclists and bring the Metro Parks to more people."

The entire trail will extend 8.4 miles when complete.

It will follow an unused railroad corridor that METRO Regional Transit Authority owns and will connect to the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail near downtown Akron at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad's Northside Station.

Metro Parks, Serving Summit County will have a formal dedication ceremony this spring, and the new trail will be added to the park district's Spree For All spring hiking series and Summer Biking Spring, its new bicycling event, Eppink said.

Roller bladers also will be permitted to use the trail, but vehicles and horses won't.

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