While bikers and
hikers may see the new part of the Dunes-Kankakee Trail as a way to get to
and from the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center to Indiana Dunes State Park, local
officials see it as a symbol of the good that can happen when communities
and government work together.
The Porter County
Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission hosted a dedication ceremony
Wednesday at the Visitor Center for the link of trail connecting the state
park, the visitor center, and the trails within the Town of Porter.
the many partners on the project, particularly U.S. Congressman Pete
Visclosky and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, who
worked hard to get federal dollars for the project.
“We can have
success when we set aside petty differences and do something that benefits
everyone,” said Porter Town Council President Greg Stinson, who commended
Visclosky for his vision in the Marquette Plan, which proposes investment in
the Lake Michigan shoreline. “It’s possible you can have economic
development and still protect natural resources. It’s not an either-or
Visclosky told the
crowd that trail development is a relatively new pursuit in government. In
1990, there were about 15 miles of bike trail in the region. Today, there
are over 145 miles, Visclosky said.
In fact, before
1990 lawmakers had to “beg” communities to use federal dollars for trails
and now the federal government can’t keep up with the demand, he said.
The idea for the
Dunes-Kankakee Trail was hatched shortly after Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2006
held a trail summit where he proposed to build a system of trails throughout
the state so that every resident would be within 15 minutes of a trail
network, PCCRVC Executive Director Lorelei Weimer said.
The DK Trail’s next
stage will connect with Chesterton, and Porter County will need to continue
it past the Toll Road to make its way to Valparaiso. The County is to
eventually take the trail down Ind. 49 to the Kankakee River, Weimer said.
Weimer said the
trail was possible because of the rebuild of the bridges of U.S. 12 and U.S.
20 and she thanked the Indiana Department of Transportation for amending
their plans to include pedestrian walkways.
agreements have been signed and many more will be needed as the trail
continues, Weimer said.
included the National Lakeshore and the Department of Natural Resources for
allowing the trails on their property. Weimer also recognized County
Planning Director Robert Thompson for getting the federal funding to
complete the U.S. 20 portion.
Visclosky told the
crowd it was their tax dollars that helped fuel the development of the
“The money we pay
is being invested in the future generations of Northwest Indiana,” he said.
development would not be where it is today, Visclosky said, without the help
of the RDA. RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna said the RDA has been able to
leverage $850 million since its inception and approximately 75 percent has
been for projects related to the lakeshore.
of the lakeshore is important, Hanna said, because it has not only made it
attractive but manifested a “quality of place.”
“It’s about feeling
good about where you live,” he said.
Hanna said he
thinks the DK Trail has generated the greatest collaborative effort he’s
Indiana Regional Planning Commission Active Transportation Planner Mitch
Barloga said the trail is “a wonderful testament of regional unity” and
trails are known to grow local economies.
South Shore Line
General Manager Mike Noland said the trail will bring more people from
Chicago to visit Northwest Indiana with South Shore passengers now able to
bring bicycles onto the train.
Trail users can ask
themselves if they want to go to Washington D.C. or San Francisco as part of
the American Discovery Trail network, said Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Superintendent Paul Labovitz.
background includes trail development, said the DK trail will expand the
area’s visitor season. “This is another great reason to live, work and play
here,” he said.
Construction of the
DK Trail by SEH Inc. began three years ago starting at Dunes State Park.
Park Manager Brandt Baughman said he was happy to count eight people using
the trail in under a mile at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
“It’s being used.
It’s being loved,” Baughman said. He added he’s impressed by the number of
people involved in planning the trail being that “it is hard to keep people
interested so long, especially on a daunting task.”
Visitors may rent
bikes Thursday through Monday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., from Pedal Power Rentals
which opened last week inside the cul-de-sac of the Visitor Center. Those at
the dedication ceremony were offered bike rental free of charge for the day.
Council member Jim Ton said the Town is eager to get its part of the trail
ready, but it needs to find the money to do so. To continue, it will also
need to work with the County on getting access in certain areas.
“We certainly are
glad to see (the trail) get this far and we look forward to doing our part
when we can get the funding. But we are at the door,” Ton said.