The writer Hans Christian Anderson once wrote that “To travel is to live”
and in Porter County there is plenty of opportunity, with its network of
bike and hike trails.
There are in fact quite a few ways to get around from Chesterton to the
National Lakeshore and then to Michigan or Chicago if you know how to hop
from trail to trail. However, mapping your route could be the most
challenging aspect of the journey.
For instance, the Town of Porter alone has three trails routed through it Ð
the Porter Brickyard Trail, the Orchard Pedestrian Way, and the
Dunes-Kankakee (DK) Trail. The latter will connect Porter with Indiana Dunes
State Park and also through Chesterton, and eventually will link to
Valparaiso, Kouts, Hebron and the national American Discovery Trail (ADT).
DK to Calumet Trail
To get a comprehensive look, a good place to start tracing a route is at the
beginning of the DK Trail at the entrance to the Dunes State Park.
Groundbreaking for this first portion of the trail was in July. It is slated
to be complete by the end of this fall, according to SEH consultants, and
will track directly south to the NICTD South Shore Station at U.S. 12 where
a trailhead will link it to the Calumet Trail, which runs east and west.
The Calumet Trail begins at its west end at Mineral Springs Rd. at Dune
Acres and follows the South Shore Line along U.S. 12 until its western most
point at County Line Road near Mt. Baldy and Michigan City.
According to Mitch Barloga, non-motorized transportation and greenways
planner for the Northwest Indiana Regional Plan Commission, the Calumet
Trail’s east end is going to be picked up by LaPorte County with the Singing
Sands-Light House Trail, which will lead trail users to Michigan City’s
Washington Park and Beach.
Barloga said trail plans for the Singing Sands Trail have stalled over the
years due to ongoing negotiations between the City and the Federal Highway
Administration to get an easement to cross through the NIPSCO property, but
work will begin in the not too distant future.
“We’re looking to start next year on that. It’s been on the books forever,”
The trail will follow U.S. 12 and intersect with the LaPorte-New Buffalo
Trail at the Indiana-Michigan state line. If you take it north, you will end
up in New Buffalo, the eastern destination of the Marquette Greenway Trail
Porter County has received about $2 million in funding from federal
transportation programs and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development
Authority to resurface the Calumet Trail with asphalt from Mineral Springs
Rd. to Tremont Rd. which will provide better drainage in its most troubled
Gregg Calpino of SEH said enhancements will also be made to protect wildlife
and include more wayfinding signage. He said the redevelopment work is on
track to be bid out for construction next spring and he expects it to be
completed in late 2014 or early 2015.
“The Calumet Trail will have a link to the park train station and a spur
that goes up to the Dunes-Kankakee Trail,” Calpino said.
Porter County Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said that ribbon curves
will be added to make the Calumet Trail more aesthetically pleasing.
Visitor Center spur
Lenckos and County Plan Commission Executive Director Bob Thompson are
overseeing the development of the County’s portion of the DK trail. The next
phase for them will be an east arm to the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center,
which will cross over U.S. 20 by means of Porter’s Gateway to the Dunes
entrance on Ind. 49.
Thompson said the engineering study for that spur was just wrapped up and
construction should be completed in 2014. Crews from the Indiana Department
of Transporta-tion have started preliminary work along U.S. 12 and U.S. 20
outlining where the trail will go.
12 to 20
The town of Porter will provide the “missing link” from U.S. 12 to U.S. 20
which will also be done next year, Thompson said, connecting the Calumet
Trail with the Visitor Center.
The Marquette Greenway Trail
The Calumet Trail and the Singing Sands Light House Trail are two key
components of the 50-mile regional Marquette Greenway Trail, which connects
to Chicago’s Calumet Park.
The Greenway Trail, which was officially dedicated in 2009, is part of the
proposed Marquette Plan developed by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, who
envisioned the plan as a way for residents to access the National Lakeshore
on foot or by bike.
Barloga said there are about 20 links within the Greenway system which NIRPC
is trying to piece together. Lake County portions of the Trail have opened
up with the Marquette Trail that runs through the Miller section of Gary,
the RDA-supported Whiting Lakefront Trail and the George Lake Trail.
A proposed section of the Marquette Greenway will extend from what is now
the Porter Brickyard Trail at Howe Rd., near the Chellberg Farm, and follow
the lakeshore where it will then snake through Burns Harbor, the north side
of Portage past the NIRPC offices and then toward the Marquette Trail at the
Lake/Porter County Line Rd., Barloga said.
Started in 2000, the Porter Brickyard Trail will be fully finished next
spring, said Porter’s director of development Mike Barry, as the town now
has officially acquired the easement to provide access to the Brickyard
Pedestrian bridge over U.S. 20.
Barry said once the signed paperwork is in to the state, the town will
finalize the construction work to complete the 2.9 mile trail which will be
the connecting route between the Calumet Trail to Chesterton’s portion of
the DK Trail, and eventually the Prairie-Duneland Trail.
“We will have to go to the (Indiana) Department of Transportation, get them
to sign off and then finish it in the spring,” said Barry, who said the town
will eventually rebrand the Brickyard Trail as part of the DK Trail.
A particularly scenic trail, the Porter Brickyard weaves through the
National Lakeshore jumping from Mineral Springs Rd. on the Calumet Trail to
Howe Rd. and then east on Beam St. to Sexton Ave. to where the trail stops
at Wagner Rd.
Barry said to connect to the DK Trail route in Chesterton, it will need to
move south on Jackson Blvd. over the Norfolk Southern and CSX railroads to
At Jackson Blvd., the Brickyard route will also connect with the easternmost
end of the regional Prairie-Duneland Trail. The P-D trail is about 11 miles
in length moving southwesterly from Chesterton parallel to the CSX tracks
through the City of Portage, crossing by bridge over Ind. 149 and beneath
Barloga said he believes the P-D Trail is the only trail presently that
crosses the Porter/Lake county line until the realigning of the ADT. The
west trailhead is at Ind. 51 in Hobart. There is a planned connection to the
7.5 mile Oak Savannah Trail at Wisconsin St. in Hobart, which ends at Oak
Ridge Prairie Park in Griffith.
The next trail closest to that is the north-south Erie Lackawanna Trail
which originates in Crown Point and ends up in Hammond with a second
trailhead in Calumet City. Long-range plans are for the Lackawanna to be an
entryway into the Chicago-land trail systems. Much of the trail through
Crown Point will run parallel to the ADT which will veer west in Highland,
crossing over to Illinois. The Burnham Greenway will take bikers north to
the Chicago Lakefront Trail.
Porter also has planned the Orchard Pedestrian Trail which will be paved
starting this week. Beginning at the State Park Little League fields, the
trail moves along Woodlawn Ave. and then turns north on Waverly Rd. winding
through Hawthorne Park and proceeding back onto Waverly, crossing the
“bridge to nowhere,” and reaching its terminus at Orchard Apartments.
Barry said long-term plans are to extend the Orchard Trail north to Bailey
Drive and meet up with the DK trail.
In Chesterton, the town’s portion of the DK Trail will start from the
Brickyard Trail and move east on Broadway until it turns south at either 3rd
St. or 4th St., according to town engineer Mark O’Dell.
O’Dell said the town will decide whether to put the trail on Morgan Ave. or
Indiana Ave., where it will run to Calumet Rd. and head south.
It next turns east at Rail Road Ave. and then back south on Kellie Dr. and
along Village Pointe into Coffee Creek Center and crosses the Toll Road on
the east side of the Ind. 49 corridor, O’Dell said.
On the County portion, the trail will then shift to the west of Ind. 49
underneath the CR 900N bridge and will curve along the Porter Regional
Hospital Property onto U.S. 6 and then curve south through the eastern
portion of Sunset Hill Farm County Park. It will eventually reach Meridian
Rd. near CR 550N.
As the plans stand currently, the DK trail will connect with Valparaiso
pathways and move east on Vale Park Rd. to Silhavy Rd. and then move along
U.S. 30 around the Valparaiso Wal-Mart and south on Ind. 49 to Kouts and
eventually to the Kankakee River at the county’s south boundary.
At Kouts the trail will head west on Ind. 8 to Hebron. Building the trail
south of Valparaiso will be the County’s role and is expected to take some
time, as the County will need to acquire easements in a piecemeal fashion,
acquiring funding as necessary through federal highway grants, Thompson
said. No time frame has been determined.
The Southeast part of the county is also where the American Discovery Trail
will enter after passing the Town of LaCrosse and is planned to progress
along Ind. 8 to Hebron. There it will tie into U.S. 231 and lead to Crown
Point, Barloga said.
The ADT is a national trail developed in the early 1990s stretching from San
Francisco to Cape Henlopen in Delaware and is being rerouted passing through
Northwest Indiana to be closer to larger populations.
O’Dell said before the town gets underway on constructing portions of the DK
Trail, Chesterton will finish its next phase of the Westchester-Liberty
Trail along CR 1100 North.
When completed, the W-L Trail will be 1.5 miles or so of sidewalk starting
at Dogwood Park at 23rd St. and proceeding east to CR 100E. It will then jut
south to Rail Road Ave. and go under Ind. 49 into Coffee Creek Center just
as the DK Trail will.
Only the first phase has been done, from 23rd Street to Rosehill Estates
subdivision. O’Dell said the town has $800,000 in its coffers now for trail
development and the second phase from the subdivision to CR 100E is targeted
for completion in 2016.
It will be three to five years from now, O’Dell estimates, before a start
can be made on the DK Trail Chesterton route, depending on grants received.
He said according to the figures from SEH, the overall cost of the town’s
portion of the DK will be $6 million, or $1 million per mile.
Good for everybody
Why do governments spend millions of public tax money to create trails, you
According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Greenways and
Bikeways Plan, building trail networks “will enhance tourism, promote
healthy lifestyles, and help boost economic development.”
The state’s Hoosiers on the Move program introduced in 2006 set a goal of
having a trail within 7.5 miles of every resident. The percentage was at 83
percent seven years ago and now has reached nearly 98 percent.
The DNR reports that there are 3,181 miles of public trails today in the
state compared to 1,542 in 2006.
According to Calpino, a study by the Trails for Illinois done last year to
measure the impact of six trails indicated that trails attract hundreds of
thousands of visitors each year, prompted overnight tourist stays, and
improved local residents’ health.
“There are benefits all around,” Calpino said.
Lorelei Weimer, executive director for Porter County’s tourism bureau said
that even though local trails and route connections take time to develop,
public officials have made considerable advances in the last few years.
“I’m amazed at what we’ve done. When you see it all put in place, it’s
pretty exciting,” Weimer said.