Four years removed from agreeing on the need for a multi-use trail on Jewett Road, the Liberty Township Board of Trustees has approved its construction.
During its Monday meeting, trustees voted unanimously to approve a resolution authorizing the construction of a gravel trail that will extend from the entrance of the Derby Glen Farms subdivision to the neighboring property line, and from the Liberty Road roundabout to the start of the railroad right-of-way east of the roundabout.
The cost of the project is projected to be approximately $7,500, and construction of the path will begin no later than spring of next year.
“Seventy-five hundred dollars is still $7,500, but I think what that we will get in return, to me, is well worth it,” Board Chairwoman Shyra Eichhorn stated during the meeting.
Eichhorn shared a story of what sparked the idea for adding the trail resolution to the agenda, which involved seeing kids riding their bikes along Jewett Road all the way to football practice at Liberty Middle School on Liberty Road.
“We know how important that trail is, and we have that large group of neighborhoods that are connected that will now be able to come through Derby Glen and grab that (trail),” Eichhorn said. “I’m not saying that they should cross the railroad, I’m not encouraging that. I’m just saying that we should have a path there, and then we’ll look at ways to try to get that railroad taken care of so then they would have access to downtown.”
Trustee Mike Gemperline said the bike trail “has been one that we’ve been trying to get done longer than any that I know of, and $7,500 is quite reasonable.”
However, Gemperline speculated that constructing the paths leading towards the railroad might be promoting the crossing of the tracks without an appropriate crossing in place. It was later noted that some sort of signage or fencing will be placed at the end of the trail as a buffer between it and the railroad until the crossing is constructed. The buffer alleviated Gemperline’s expressed concerns about potential liability to the township with the trail leading bikers towards the tracks.
Once the railroad crossing is in place and grant funding is in place, the trail will be paved. Eichhorn later added, “When we get the last piece, which would be the railroad crossing, then it will be done.”
The township has been in contact with CSX, which owns the railroad, as well as the county about plans to complete the trail with the railroad crossing. Township Administrator Mike Schuiling suggested the crossing could be funded using American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding that may be available to the township. Fiscal Officer Rick Karr expressed uncertainty whether or not the trail could be funded under the guidelines for ARP funding. Trustee Bryan Newell said he believes having the trail included in the township’s master plan for parks would allow for it to be eligible for ARP funding.
Newell offered his support of the resolution prior to the vote, stating, “I think we should go ahead with doing this because kids are already crossing the tracks on their own. So, if we can do something to at least get them off of Jewett Road for a while, then I think that’s better than having them continue to ride on Jewett Road and cross the tracks. We’ve kind of split the equation in half, in my opinion.”
He went on to say, “We’ve got money in the trail fund to do this. It’s not a throwaway (project) because we can use it as the base for the asphalt whenever (that happens), and it’ll probably drive the cost of that part of the project down. So it’s not a throwaway in that situation; it’s kind of a headstart.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.