Chesterton Tribune



Burns Harbor asking for $4.8 million over two years for trail construction

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Voting Wednesday, the Burns Harbor Town Council approved applying for a total $4 million in federal grants and agreed to ask the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority for the required 20 percent local match.

Councilman Gene Weibl, who’s been preparing the grant package, said the town shouldn’t have to pay anything out-of-pocket to build a 2.6-mile hike/bike trail along the Little Calumet River corridor to connect with the Porter Brickyard Trail at Howe Road on the east and a planned trail through the Ameriplex business park in Portage on the west.

The Burns Harbor trail is a missing segment in the Marquette Plan’s goal of a continuous trail between Illinois and Michigan.

The Town Council resolution authorizing the grant application was not listed on the meeting agenda. The trail would cross Salt Creek, a NIPSCO easement and follow the north and south sides of the Little Calumet on property owned by the National Park Service.

The trail was included as a sub-area project in the town’s previously adopted comprehensive plan.

The Transportation Alternatives Program or TAP grants being sought use federal highway trust funds. Weibl said $2 million would be requested this year and $2 million in 2015. The money is administered through the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

Council member Greg Miller asked what are the chances the RDA will give the town $800,000 over two years for the as-yet unnamed trail.

Weibl said, “A lot of people are doing a lot of scambling behind the scenes” to secure a funding commitment. If one’s not forthcoming, the project likely won’t proceed at this time, he said.

Burns Harbor’s grant application contains two emails in support: from incoming Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore superintendent Paul Labovitz, and from Lorelei Weimer, executive director of Indiana Dunes Tourism. Both emails are directed to the RDA.

After the meeting Weibl addressed concerns raised previously by town residents that the Little Calumet corridor at times floods, and that unprocessed sewage from an upstream treatment plant sometimes floats downstream. Weibl said Chesterton has taken and plans to take additional steps to reduce sewage overflows, and that occassional corridor flooding can be addressed through sound trail engineering.

"The trick will be how much (of the trail) is on high ground and how much stays along the river.” He noted several agencies and organizations are committed to cleaning up the Little Calumet as a navigable river for recreation purposes.

As for maintenance of the completed trail, Weibl said while there should be no cost to Burns Harbor to build it, initially trail maintenance might fall to the town but eventually his hope is that the NPS agrees to do it.

“It’s going to be a beautiful trail,” Weibl added.

In other business, the council set May 27 at 6 p.m. as a public workshop to consider a contract with Superior Ambulance Service to take over primary advanced-life-support ambulance response in town. Superior currently has a contract with Chesterton to provide the same service.

Early this year the Burns Harbor Fire Department discontinued its own ALS service after it proved not to be financially feasible.

The Porter County ambulance service through Porter Regional Hospital moved an ALS rig into the fire station and provides quality care, said councilman Mike Perrine, but an ambulance isn’t always available here when needed.

Perrine said it appears Burns Harbor would do better by going with Superior, and for the time being Porter will continue to serve the town.


Posted 5/15/2014




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