No one’s abandoning connecting Porter’s hike/bike trail system to the Porter
County Visitor Center and the east side of Indiana 49, but the general
consensus Monday was that using the Munson Ditch easement to do it probably
isn’t the best way.
Planned but undetermined changes to Indiana 49 in that area, a possible
roundabout there, the volume of semi-trucks using Indiana 49 and the
secluded nature of the Munson route all generated doubt.
More than 35 people attended a special Porter Redevelopment Commission input
session on the matter; the RDC will vote May 22 whether to use a $72,000
Lake Michigan Coastal Program grant to help buy the needed Munson parcels or
lose the grant.
The Munson link would become part of the new north/south Dunes Kankakee
Trail loosely paralleling Indiana 49. In the Duneland area segments will be
built by the State of Indiana, Porter County, and the towns of Porter and
Porter’s leg of the Dunes Kankakee is part of the town’s larger Gateway to
the Indiana Dunes redevelopment/tourism project partially funded with a $19
million grant. Town Council president Greg Stinson said the Northwest
Indiana Regional Development Authority is aware of Porter’s hesitation about
using Munson and won’t pull the plug on the grant, but Porter ultimately
will have to connect to the Dunes Kankakee.
The Munson alignment, proposed to go west along the ditch easement behind
cellular towers and Pinkerton Oil from Indiana 49 to Waverly Road, was
chosen last year by the previous RDC, but how to get trail users safely
across Indiana 49 wasn’t clearly identified.
Gene Chemma suggested using a Tremont Road leg to access the Visitor Center
instead keeping the trail on the east side of Indiana 49 with no need to
If and when a traffic roundabout is built just south of the Visitor Center
as a Gateway feasibility study proposes, speakers last night predicted a
dangerous situation for hikers/bikers trying to cross Indiana 49 near
roundabout traffic that isn’t meant to stop.
RDC consultant Matt Reardon of SEH said the roundabout isn’t a done deal and
the Indiana Department of Transportation won’t allow conditions that are
unsafe, especially if the community is opposed to a specific plan. Pinkerton
Oil owner Bob Poparad challenged Reardon’s latter comments.
After the meeting Nicholas Minich of SEH confirmed that although INDOT
previously accepted the Indiana 49 corridor feasibility study which included
a roundabout, “They never gave details what they liked and didn’t like so
we’ve started pushing and they’re reviewing it again.”
Minich also noted recommendations in a companion Gateway study calling for
off-site parking and shuttle service to the State Park would reduce the
traffic on Indiana 49.
Several speakers Monday said it’s bad enough now without trying to attract
even more tourists.
Porter police chief James Spanier said while he’s generally for roundabouts,
he’d question one on Indiana 49. He opposed the feasibility study’s proposal
to reduce Indiana 49 from four lanes to two north of Oak Hill Road because
two days last year traffic heading to the State Park was backed up onto the
Interstate 94 ramps creating a dangerous situation. Reducing lanes will
compound the problem, he predicted.
Gerry Waechter also cited back-ups on Indiana 49 almost to Interstate 94
after a new INDOT 49 bridge over U.S. 12 was reduced to two lanes. He said
the Gateway project shouldn’t be a Field of Dreams that no one can reach.
Porter Public Works director Brenda Brueckheimer and resident Jennifer Klug
both questioned how semi-trucks are going to negotiate a roundabout. Klug
said trails and tourism are nice, but mill-related truck traffic is a
livelihood for this area. Minich said semis and hikers/bikers can co-exist
on a properly designed roundabout that calms traffic.
RDC vice-president Al Raffin said it’s unsettling thinking of
pedestrians/cyclists trying to cross Indiana 49. “I’m nervous someone will
get hit.” Crossing the U.S. 20 interchange ramps for the Porter County
portion of the Dunes Kankakee will be challenging as well, he and Poparad
In addition to the Brickyard Trail, which will tie into Porter County’s
existing Calumet Trail, the Town of Porter is engineering the Orchard Pedway
hike/bike trail from Woodlawn Avenue north along Waverly Road. The pedway
ends south of Oak Hill Road at Orchard Apartments, but Scott Virtue felt the
planned re-opening of Splash Down Dunes waterpark at Waverly and U.S. 20
will create a need to extend the pedway north of that signalized
Safety of a different kind was a concern for Karen Kenney, who said the
Munson easement is too secluded inviting mischief. “Kids will be partying
back there. I don’t see a good mix.”
Nelson replied, “You’re not the first person to raise that concern.” Kenney
asked who would maintain the trails. Brueckheimer said she’s wondering how
her department is supposed to get equipment in to do that.
Reardon said now’s a good time to work with INDOT and re-evaluate the
situation. Nelson said a Porter delay on the Munson leg won’t affect anyone
else’s Dunes Kankakee planning. Judy Chemma agreed Munson needs to be looked
at again, but “I’m concerned using taxpayer money to redo and redo and
Rich Janusaitis said a safe trail plan for Porter is the goal. “I’m all for
the trails 100 percent. This is one of the nicest, most beautiful (areas
for) trails. We live in such a cool area.”