Opinions wanted on biking, walking access

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

The public is being asked to share online what walking and biking facilities they would like to see in Dubois County.

In the next month, they will be able to vocalize those opinions to a committee looking to create a bike and pedestrian master plan for the county.

For now, people can fill out an online survey or use an interactive map to place sites and add comments on those sites. Both are located on the master plan’s website, https://tswdesign.mysocialpinpoint.com/dubois-county. They will close April 6. People also can leave comments through the site.

“The goal of the whole project is to provide a better atmosphere for people to be active and healthy, and to connect our communities,” Jasper City Attorney Renee Kabrick said. “In doing that, we want to satisfy the desires as much as we can of the residents, and create amenities that people want to use. In order to do that, we have to have their opinions.”

Kabrick is one of several officials from Dubois County, Huntingburg and Jasper who have been working together to look at the possibility of connecting communities in the county through a countywide trail system. The Indiana State Department of Health awarded a $20,000 bicycle and pedestrian master planning grant for this study; the needed $20,000 match for the grant was raised through private donations.

The working group now consists of people representing the county, Jasper, Huntingburg and Ferdinand. Consultants Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group and VS Engineering are working with the group to research and create the components of the master plan.

“The focus is connecting points in the county,” Kabrick said. “This pedestrian and bicycle master plan is more geared toward the county, connecting communities.”

The survey asks a variety of questions about walking and bicycling habits. Some of those inquiries are what facilities are needed here; if people feel safe walking or biking; general conditions of roads, sidewalks and trails; and if they would consider using a trail to get to needed places like to work or shopping. Survey takers are also asked if Dubois County is considered to be a walkable and bike-friendly county and what are the biggest factors that discourage the activities.

The interactive map allows viewers to place markers on the map to designate a place of interest and to comment on those specific areas. Others can also like or dislike a marker, or leave a comment on that location. Consultants ask that people especially identify:

• Areas they currently or would like to bike and walk to within the county, or within the broader region.

• Areas they have safety concerns as a bicyclist or pedestrian.

• Routes they frequently walk or bike today.

• Biking or walking routes they would like to see in the future.

Two public hearings are being planned to give people a chance to share their ideas and opinions. Those will be held Thursday, May 6, and Thursday, June 17. They are set to run from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and as of now, will be virtual only. Depending on current health guidelines at that time, there may be an opportunity to be at the hearings in-person, Kabrick said. If that happens, the location for the hearings will be announced.

“If we don't get the community to provide opinions, then either we don't have projects, or we have projects that people don't necessarily want to use. And neither of those is the goal,” she said. “So we definitely want to have public input so that we can give people what they really want.”

The work to develop the master plan is being done in four phases. Phase one, looking at existing conditions and perceptions, is expected to be worked on until April. Phase two, preliminary route and connection development, is being done between March and May. Phase three will be developing the master plan, and will be done in May and June. Phase four will include adopting the master plan and should be completed by the end of June.




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