Officials consider connecting communities with trails

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Local communities and the county are considering using multi-use paths to connect the communities.

Officials from Dubois County, Ferdinand, Huntingburg and Jasper are meeting to discuss the idea.

And that’s what it is at the moment: an idea.

“We are interested in having the conversation. But we don’t know a lot of about it now,” Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide said. “It’s in the incubator stage.”

“We’re at the very, very beginning of that discussion,” Huntingburg Mayor Denny Spinner said. “But yes, we are interested. We want to have that discussion.”

The Dubois County Park Board suggested the idea of connecting communities through a system of trails in January, after finding out that such projects would be looked at more favorably by the grantors of the state’s Next Level Trails grant program. The grant, which would be available next year, is an 80-20 match, meaning that the park would have to provide 20 percent of the cost.

The park board was looking to pursue to Next Level Trails grant funding to install and improve Dubois County Park trails and install a restroom on the east end of the park. Now the board is planning to pursue a state Land and Water grant to cover the costs of the restroom and for the installation of RV campsites, which are needed at the park.

Dubois County Commissioner Chad Blessinger told the commissioners Monday that he has met with officials once and they plan to meet again to continue discussions.

“I like the idea of at least looking at where the existing trails are and seeing if there is anything logical that can be put in for connection,” he said. “We have so many 5Ks. It would be nice to have a system of trails that are paved, and maybe have events on those.”

But cost is a major factor to consider. That will also be discussed, Blessinger said. The mayors are also looking at the financial side.

“The idea is a good idea. We are looking at if this is feasible and how much it’s going to cost; those are our priorities,” Vonderheide said, “where funding would come from, if there are grants available.”

Also, including a multi-community project in a documented plan would be needed to qualify for grant funding like the Next Level Trail grant, which stipulates that the project must be in some type of document, like conceptual or comprehensive plan.

“We want to make sure that, if we think this is feasible at all for our county, that we have something in a document,” Spinner said. “For instance, if part of that trail would be in Huntingburg, I would have a document that says this is on a regional plan. Then I can say that this isn’t just a Huntingburg plan, this is a part of a larger project.”

For now, the officials are still trying to determine if any of this is possible.

“When you start thinking about, philosophically, the connectivity of the communities with a multi-use trail,” Vonderheide said, “I think it would be looked at favorably by a large portion of our communities.”




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