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Photos: From Here to There: Trail network connects Duneland to the outside world

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Going somewhere?: The new directional post at the trailhead where the recently completed portion of the Dunes-Kankakee Trail meets the Calumet Trail near the Dune Park Train Station points trail users in the right direction. (Tribune photo by Jeff Schultz)

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

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,” Barloga said.

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 system.

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 wet spots.

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.

Porter Brickyard/

Prairie Duneland

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 reach Broadway.

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 Interstate 80.

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.

Orchard Pedway

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.

DK Chesterton

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.

Beyond Duneland

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.

Westchester-Liberty Trail

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 ask?

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.

 

Porter Brickyard Trail Bridge: The Porter Brickyard Trail crosses over U.S. 20 into the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore with some style. The trail to the footbridge will be completed by spring next year as the town has finally closed on the purchase of the parcel of land at the corner of Howe Road. The Brickyard Trail will connect the Calumet Trail with Chesterton’s portion of the Dunes-Kankakee Trail. (Tribune photo by Jeff Schultz)

 

The scenic route: One of Porter County’s first bike/pedestrian trails, the Calumet Trail runs through the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore from Mineral Springs Rd. to the LaPorte County line. Porter County has hired SEH Inc. to refurbish two miles of the trail between Mineral Springs Rd. and Tremont Rd., which includes the area around the Dune Park Train Station. Crews will pave that portion of the trail with asphalt sometime next year. Seen here is the trail’s entrance at Waverly Rd. facing west. (Tribune photo by Jeff Schultz)

 

Orchard Trail in Porter takes shape: Many areas of the Town of Porter’s Orchard Pedestrian bike/hike trail were paved and covered with asphalt this past week including this section which winds around Hawthorne Park. The trail connects the State Park Little League fields on Woodlawn Ave. to the Orchard Apartments on Waverly Rd. Porter Director of Development Mike Barry said a long-term plan is to extend the trail connecting downtown Porter with U.S. 20. (Tribune photo by Jeff Schultz)

 

Prairie-Duneland trail head: Across from Chesterton Skate Park on Jackson Blvd. is the eastern trail head for the 11 mile Prairie-Duneland. The trail continues its run through Duneland to Portage and eventually ends at St. Rd. 51 in Hobart. Future plans are to connect the west end with the Oak-Savannah Trail which ends in Griffith. (Tribune photo by Jeff Schultz)

New trailhead at train station: The first portion of the north-south Dunes-Kankakee Trail, starting at the entrance of Indiana Dunes State Park near the NICTD train station is near completion. The D-K trail intersects with the east-west Calumet Trail on the north side of the tracks. The trailhead includes signage with points of interest and the history of the area and benches for trail users to rest on. The town of Porter will continue work on the D-K Trail connecting U.S. 12 to U.S. 20 which is slated for completion in 2014.

 (Tribune photo by Jeff Schultz)

 

Posted 11/1/2013