Chesterton Tribune

 

Public gets to weigh in on new upgrade plan for Calumet Trail

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Supporters of the Calumet Trail got to weigh in on plans to rebuild the trail during an open house at the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center on Wednesday.

A series of three open houses will be hosted by Porter County and SEH consultants who have been charged by the County Commissioners with the engineering and landscape designs to refurbish roughly two miles of the trail starting at Mineral Springs Road and working its way east toward Tremont Road.

Project Manager Gregg Calpino of SEH said his firm wants the public to decide what features they see as priorities whether it be better protection of wildlife, trail signage, or drainage improvements.

The County has secured $2 million in grants -- about $1.6 million in federal transportation enhancement grants and $400,000 in a matching grant from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority -- for the project. Calpino said stakeholder groups have met regularly with SEH such as local environmentalists, trail users, the National Lakeshore, the Indiana Dunes, Northern Indiana Public Service Company, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District and the Duneland/Chesterton Chamber of Commerce to put together one shared vision.

Its a balancing act, said Calpino. He said the trail has a rich, diverse history given its location along the lakeshore, the South Shore line and the steel mills and his team would like to tell that history through various elements with the new design.

Many of the guidelines set forth in the Calumet Trail Revitalization Feasibility Study completed in August 2009 will be also be included, Calpino said.

Sections of the trail especially in the western area has been prone to flooding, making it difficult for bikers and pedestrians using the trail. Much of the area between Mineral Springs Road and Tremont Road will be raised and asphalted to make it more durable. The surface is currently made up of crushed limestone.

Calpino said SEH hopes to begin work by Summer 2014. After the public input sessions, SEH will reveal the final engineering design to the public which will likely be at the end of this year, he said.

The trail width will be 10 feet which is the national recommended standard and will be ADA compliant. Signs will be placed along the trail to promote safety.

While upgrades to the other seven miles of trail will come later after funding can be obtained, basic maintenance will be done so the public can still use the entire trail.

Open house attendees were asked to place stickers on diagrams indicating which options they prefer for pavings, drainage, nodes, and habitat. The most popular options were those that entailed low capital costs over those with high capital costs.

Attendees also made it clear by the stickers that efforts need to be made to protect wildlife. The Calumet Trail is home to a variety of rare species such as the massasuaga rattlesnake, the spotted turtle and the chorus frog.

Calpino said the Calumet Trail is part of a regional trail system with connectivity to the Marquette Greenway Trail. Plans are to connect it with the Dunes-Kankakee Trail which will provide a route that hikers and bikers could use to get from the Dunes Park train station to the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center.

Location and dates have not been determined for the next two open houses but Calpino said they will likely be held in May and July.

 

 

 

4/4/2013