The new trail linking John Brown Tannery Park to Fred Fuller Park isn't officially open because construction is ongoing.
Yet Kent residents are using the trail — which is about 95 percent finished — anyway.
Kent Parks and Recreation Director John Idone said the new path, part of the countywide Portage Bike and Hike Trail, is meant to bring people who otherwise would not have access, such as seniors, people in wheelchairs and families with strollers, to the scenic banks of the Cuyahoga River.
"Families are the big thing," he said. "It's essentially open now. We're trying to keep people off of it, but once the concrete went down it's really hard to keep people off of it."
Idone said he understands runners and others who preferred the simple foot path along the river, but the new concrete path increases access tenfold — particularly for those who might not have been able to use the foot path.
The official ribbon-cutting for the trail most likely won't happen until spring 2013.
The path, constructed by Cavanaugh Building, cost $875,000. A $700,000 grant from the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study paid for the bulk of it with the city paying just $175,000.
"Really the only thing to finish up is the railing along the river and some clean-up and it's essentially done," Idone said. "The next phase is in 2017, where we have funding to continue the Esplanade from where it meets (Haymaker Parkway) ... across S.R. 43 and down to Franklin Avenue."
That section will pass alongside Haymaker Parkway on the south side of the road, past the police and fire departments, across South Water Street and down to Franklin Avenue between Walgreens and the Haymaker Parkway Overpass.
"Ultimately we'd like to connect it to this link here," Idone said. "The other section goal is to connect the Freedom Secondary Trail, which comes in at S.R. 261 and Middlebury Road. There's a number of options there that really aren't fully developed yet."