Trail from Riverwalk to Buffalo Trace soon to be reality

Traci Westcott/The Herald
Walkers use the multi-use trail on St. Charles Street in Jasper on Monday. 


JASPER — City employees are hopeful that someday a walking trail will loop around Jasper — and it might branch out to other county municipalities as well.

When work begins on the newest section of the city’s multi-use trail this summer, Jasper will be a step closer to that circle of connectivity.

“Walkability is a big thing,” said Chad Hurm, the city’s engineer. “It gives people a chance to get out and exercise. It gives you an alternate method of getting someplace.”

Backed by more than $2 million in grant funding from the Indiana Department of Transportation and a 20 percent match from the city’s wallet, the yet-to-be-laid stretch of trail will begin at the current Riverwalk access point at 15th Street, run to Kellerville Road, along Cathy Lane to Mill Street, and back to the north end of the Buffalo Trace Golf Course.

The Board of Public Works and Safety recently approved a $209,000 construction inspection contract with VS Engineering, and INDOT will bid out the project next month. Hurm estimated work will begin this summer and last for six to eight months.

“I think it’s encouraging, the amount of use that our current trail system has,” Mayor Dean Vonderheide said at the board’s meeting last week. “And I think it shows that the public is behind this and regularly use it for health activities or just regular recreation.”

When completed, walkers and joggers will be able to run from the north end of the Riverwalk at 15th Street to Kellerville Road, north to Cathy Lane, along the south side of Cathy Lane to a point even with 23rd Street and the north side of Calumet Lake, then west along 23rd Street to the west side of Mill Street then north along Mill Street to the north edge of Buffalo Trace golf course. Hurm explained that from there, the path is not set, but the city will eventually get to Northwood Avenue and follow it to St. Charles.

The first phase of the project facilitated the establishing of the trail on St. Charles Street — near Jasper High School — and the second phase covered the expansion of the trail on St. Charles Street from Schuetter Road to Northwood Avenue.

According to Herald archives, in 2014, the city was awarded a $2 million grant — which the city must match at 20 percent, or about $400,000 — from INDOT’s Local Public Agency program to help with the costs, but the funds were not dispensed until 2017 due to funding constraints at the state level. Hurm said the past two years have been filled with preliminary and planning measures.

Eventually, the trail could connect to other nearby towns and cities.

“We’ve actually had discussions ... about a connection to Huntingburg, and possibly a connection to Ireland,” Hurm said. “And making these regional trails similar to what the Monon [Trail] does in Indianapolis.”

At last week’s public works meeting, board member Nancy Eckerle expressed concerns with the path the new addition to the trail will follow. She said she does not believe it is a safe route because of the car and truck traffic on Cathy Lane and Mill Street. When a motion to approve the inspection contract with VS Engineering was made, she supplied the lone dissenting vote.

Hurm said several routes were considered, but this is the one the city has elected to move forward with since 2007, adding that the route meets all INDOT safety requirements.

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