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I-77 South: Cleveland
to New Philadelphia, OHIO

    Interstate 77 starts in downtown Cleveland, near Jacobs Field and Gund Arena, home of the Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively. It proceeds south past Richfield, Akron, Massillon, Canton, Bolivar, and Zoar. This program ends at New Philadelphia, but I-77 continues through Ohio until it crosses the Ohio/West Virginia border at Marietta and keeps on going south.

  • This route begins in industrial Cleveland. You'll see remnants of what was once Cleveland's defining industry, steel, in old factory buildings and warehouses. You will also pass through neighborhoods that were built for workers in the mills and that have housed generations of immigrants.

  • At the southern edges of the Cleveland metropolitan area, there is a surprising transition. Suddenly, you're in what appears to be a forest, with glimpses of rolling wooded hills to the left. This is the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio's only national park. It was established in 1974 as a national recreation area and only recently upgraded to national park status.

  • With the exception of the national park, I-77 passes through a heavily populated and industrial region that extends for 60 miles. Why this concentration? Answer: the Ohio and Erie Canal. In the early 1800s Ohio's first canal opened into Lake Erie at Cleveland. This transformed Cleveland from a village into a trading center and then an industrial powerhouse. Akron was founded because of the canal, and all along the route, smaller communities were bolstered by its trade and traffic. Though the canal is long gone as a commercial waterway (it has a second life anchoring the Cuyahoga Valley National Park), it started a process of development whose effects continue to this day.

  • As you make your way through Akron, you might glimpse reminders of what once were Akron's main industries: tires and oatmeal. Akron was home to the "big four" of the rubber industryB. F. Goodrich, Goodyear, Firestone, General Tireand Quaker Oats. Today there are only traces of those industries left. You'll see some names reminiscent of the era (Firestone Blvd) and some structures (a silo complex that was turned into a hotelit can be seen off to the left when you pass Akron's downtown). You'll also see evidence for an anchor of the new economy: the University of Akron.

  • Throughout this route, you'll be following the path of the old Ohio and Erie Canal. At Bolivar, I-77 is built just about on top of the canal bed. Look to the right just before the Bolivar exit, and you'll see a row of canal-era buildings. It doesn't take much imagination to see how those structures were lined up to serve the canal traffic.

  • Right after the Bolivar exit, you'll pass through a section of what was once Fort Laurens, the only American fort built in the Ohio territory during the Revolutionary War. The fort didn't have much of an effect militarilythe greatest battle was with the threat of starvation. But it scored a few points for the struggling American forces for even attempting a presence out here in the wilderness.

    Throughout most of this route, the landscape is gently hilly. But then a rather dramatic transition occurs near the Stark County/Tuscarawas County line: the hills get higher, the valleys are deeper, and there is more forested land. The reason for this change? Glaciers. The landscape of northeast Ohio once was similar to the more rugged geography of southeast Ohio, but from 2 million years ago to 10,000 years ago, glaciers scraped back and forth, shaving down the hills and filling in the valleys. The result is the more gentle landscape of northeast Ohio which is more conducive to human settlement. Hence, the considerably larger population in the sections smoothed by the glaciers.

This program is available for purchase on CD or cassette tape. The narration runs for about one hour in 3 segments that take you from Cleveland south along I-77. The CDs and cassettes sell for $9.95 each.

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