Chesterton Tribune

Porter scraps Munson trail route and grant; new alignment north of US 20 studied

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Town staff and consultants are studying alternate ways to connect Porter to the planned Dunes Kankakee Trail after its Redevelopment Commission on Tuesday voted not to accept a $72,000 grant and not to purchase land for the trail along the Munson Ditch easement.

Vote was 4-0 with member Elka Nelson and non-voting member Ron Stone both absent.

According to town attorney Gregg Sobkowski, “Every property owner (involved in the Munson purchase) had questions and concerns so I’m not sure how easy those acquisitions would have been.”

Commented RDC member Greg Stinson, “I’d rather forgo getting (grant) money than spending money unwisely.”

Member Al Raffin said the RDC received valuable input during a May 14 community meeting on the DK Trail where it was made clear that having the trail cross Indiana 49 near the busy Porter County Visitor Center was discouraged.

Member Jeannine Virtue said although she was out of town for the input meeting, she was advised there seems to be a lot of concern over using Munson Ditch.

Member Joe Simanski said meeting comments raised concerns for him, specifically regarding a proposed roundabout on Indiana 49 near the Visitor Center and the fact that individuals living along Munson questioned the safety of a trail in that area.

"I don’t think I’m alone in this that maybe an alternate route should be considered,” said Simanski.

Town director of development Michael Barry said so far, “We haven’t nailed down a way that would be the easiest.”

He and Porter Public Works director Brenda Brueckheimer are investigating possible alternatives like conceptually north along Waverly Road from the Orchard Apartments, likely avoiding the Pat’s Liquors parking lot, to north of U.S. 20 then going east crossing Indiana 49 near Hjelm Road or Bailly Drive to the DK Trail on the east side of 49.

An advantage to crossing Indiana 49 in this area is the highway is two lanes as it leaves the Indiana Dunes State Park, said Barry.

Resident Karen Pisowicz said Hjelm Road was closed because there were so many accidents, so why cross Indiana 49 there? Raffin said although pedestrian bridges are expensive, he’d be nervous about making the crossing without one. “Safety has to be very paramount.”

Barry said there’s adequate room for a bridge near Hjelm.

Resident Bob Kenney said his back yard abuts the Munson Ditch and he asked why Porter’s trail has to go to the Indiana Dunes State Park, especially via narrow Waverly Road where Raffin said people drive too fast.

Stinson said Porter was given a large amount of money, in part specifically to connect to the regional DK Trail near the State Park bringing it through Porter to Chesterton.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority previously awarded Porter a $19 million grant to implement its Gateway to the Indiana Dunes tourism/economic development initiative which included the DK Trail link.

Raffin said town officials are coordinating their trail realignment efforts with SEH, Porter’s consultants on the Gateway project.

He also suggested having another community input session when an alternate DK Trail route is proposed although that could take a number of months.


Posted 5/23/2012