Genoa village officials hope to re-energize support to make the village’s leg of the North Coast Inland Trail a reality.
“The North Coast Inland Trail idea started in Genoa. It would be a kick in the pants if we can’t get our section of it done,” Village Administrator Kevin Gladden said.
The North Coast Inland Trail aspires to connect Indiana to Pennsylvania, requiring a roughly 270-mile west to east ribbon of multi-use recreational trail through Ohio. Nearly two-thirds of that trail corridor is well-defined now. It extends from the Indiana border, just west of the north fork of the Wabash Cannonball Trail in Northwest Ohio, over to Lorain.
Today, the unfinished section includes a path in Northwest Ohio that includes the Genoa area.
Genoa officials, along with those in Elmore, where the bike pathway opened more than five years ago, have worked on developing a route plan for years.
In the past year, several proposed routes haven’t caught support. One proposal included sending the bikeway down a section of Martin-Williston Road and State Route 51; or setting up along State Route 163, which included crossing a number of neighborhood properties. Two other possibilities crossed large of sections of farmland. Negotiations on both faltered, Gladden said.
“If we can’t get the trail to come into a portion of Genoa, it kind of defeats the purpose,” Gladden said this past winter.
Large spending cuts - both state and federal - in transportation bills had many planners fearing assistance for bike trails would suffer. Grants are usually available in funding splits of 70/30 percent and 60/40 percent.
But in the end, federal monies were put aside for upcoming projects. Yet, the local Rails-to-Trails committee has not met in months. That changes in May, when committee members gather at 6 p.m. May 8 at the Genoa Town Hall.
The reaction was spurred by a recent vote by Lake Township trustees, Gladden said. The township is working with the Village of Millbury, at the request of Mayor Michael Timmons, to jointly seek funding for a bike trail that would link parts of their jurisdictions.
Their plan is to get a grant submission ready for April 2014. The proposed route would connect the village’s Passive Park to Veteran’s Memorial Park along Fostoria Road and continue to Fireside Park in the township on Ayers Road. From there, it would go to Friendship Park adjacent to the township administration building at the corner of Cummings Road and State Route 795.
And if this new route comes to be, “We’d be the only section from Fort Wayne to Cleveland without the bike trail …,” Gladden said. “People have to face the reality that this whole thing is going to move along here. The state has made a commitment to make (the North Coast Inland Trail) a key transportation route.”
As a result, the state has substantial financial stake in finishing the entire bikeway route across Ohio.
“If we are the last man standing, it’s going to get done,” Gladden said.
Planning for the trail has roots in Genoa dating back more than two decades ago when the late Tomme Bergman and Mark Mulligan, now the county prosecutor, joined forces to help create the Ottawa County Park District. The need for the inland bike trail and the recreation and tourism dollars it could provide for the community were catalysts for the park district’s creation.
The idea, Mulligan said, was to use the park district to apply for the trail as a multi-county project between Ottawa and Sandusky counties. Bergman believed the partnership had a better chance of securing funding than the two counties working individually, he explained.
“She was concerned about Genoa and the community and she thought the bike trail would be a wonderful asset,” Mulligan said of Bergman and those early days when the bike trail was just a dream. “I think in time all her aspirations and dreams will come to be. It has been a great asset to Elmore.”
Mulligan said Bergman combined her passion with that of other bike trail backers such as Elmore Mayor Lowell Krumnow, her daughter-in-law Ellen Bergman, and Karen Kruse to push for Ottawa and Sandusky counties.
“I think Mayor Krumnow is to be commended for the work he has done for the bike trail still today,” Mulligan said.
Steve Gruner, director of the Sandusky County Park Board, worked in tandem with the group to get trail money secured and projects under way.