By Sarah Wright
The Syracuse-Wawasee Trail feasibility study pushes closer to its start following a USI Consultants presentation and discussion at the trail committee’s meeting Monday, Feb. 15.
While the study will shape the trail system and aid the committee in building its strategic plan, it also promises regional implications, including the potential of connectivity with North Webster and even Milford. Both towns have been conducting their own feasibility studies, too.
Syracuse-Wawasee Trail would be divided into two phases. “The last phase would be left for when all the funding is in place,” Ben Beer with USI Consultants explained. “It is actually the right of way evaluation in terms of whatever routes we come up with, evaluating the real estate required, the right of way that’s required. Phase one will be all of the red flag analysis as far as environmental, permitting and looking at various routes and alternatives through the various sections.”
He added this also includes figuring the costs of each section and coordinating with utilities.
Committee member Tom Edington asked about also examining side roads and country roads that are not heavily used, and Beer and fellow USI consultant Wyatt Huber noted they could be potential opportunities. Huber said, “There is nothing shown in that map that is set in stone.”
One consideration, however, was some funding organizations would want fully dedicated, separated pedestrian paths.
As far as a timetable, there would be a kickoff meeting with the potential of the feasibility study in the rough draft form being available within six months. Both Beer and Huber noted the uniqueness of the study since it will have three sets of trails being studied simultaneously with several factors involved from constituents and stakeholders to wetlands. Beer noted these factors would require monthly status updates.
In response to committee member Sherm Goldenberg’s inquiry of the final product, Beer stated a phased approach would have to be taken in line with funding availability.
USI Consultants is also working with North Webster on a trail that would go along SR 13 to Wawasee Middle School, and Beer sees an opportunity for this project to connect with Syracuse-Wawasee Trail. Additionally, Milford is another client and has a completed feasibility study for a route along Old SR 15 to the north side of Waubee Lake.
Huber noted, “Definitely North Webster and Syracuse — and maybe to some extent Milford — the three communities should come together with MACOG (Michiana Area Council of Governments) or with the county to join resources toward a comprehensive trail plan.” He explained having regional significance like that can help secure funding like the Next Level Trail. “I would like to try and coordinate something in the early part of this year with the three communities. Bring in MACOG or MPO (metropolitan planning organization) out of South Bend; they have a lot of resources to share.”
A kickoff meeting for the feasibility study will be planned, and Erlene Yentes, trails executive director, will work to coordinate a meeting with North Webster and Milford officials. Efforts to fully raise the $100,000 needed to fund the feasibility study will also continue; currently, $83,157 has been raised.
In other trail news:
• Trails will participate in the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation’s Earth Day Festival, May 1.
• A funding thermometer has been added to the Syracuse-Wawasee Trail’s website highlighting the additional funding needed to fully fund the feasibility study. Yentes stated, “Consider making a contribution to further our vision of a connected trail community around Indiana’s largest natural lake. Please earmark your gift for the feasibility study. Checks can be mailed to 1013 N. Long Drive, or for credit card payments, go to syracusewawaseetrails.com and click ‘Donate Today.’”
• Tour des Lakes is slated for July 17, with registration now live. Early registration ends June 1.