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Committee discusses next step after bridge installation

By LAUREN ZEUGNER (Staff Writer – The Mail-Journal)

Syracuse-Wawasee Trail Committee discussed what its next move should be once the bridge is installed at McConnell/Skinner Ditch later this summer during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday evening. Board member Dave Brandes said the SR 13 segment is currently “dead in the water,” due to being cost prohibitive. The last cost estimate, from two years ago, was $1.3 million.

Brandes told the board the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation is still interested in having a trail through its property. Most of the trail would be on terra firma, but Spike Ford, committee chair, pointed out some board walk will have to be installed on wetlands, which will drive the cost up.  One issue will be staying in the right of way.  Brandes suggested bringing a trail along Vawter Park, through the S curve up to CR 800E, coming around to CR 1000N and then west up to Wawasee Middle School. While some board walk would have to be installed, most of the trail could be done in the right of way.  Neighbors in that area have also been asking when the trail committee will start going around Lake Wawasee.

In fact, the trail committee recently accepted a donation from a couple who want to see trail on their end of Lake Wawasee. Ford told the committee a feasibility study for Vawter Park area would cost between $10,000 and $12,000.  Ford noted the trail could come around the north and east sides of Lake Wawasee for what it would cost to do SR 13.

Committee member Mike Buhrt said he felt the trail around Syracuse Lake should be completed before tackling trail around Lake Wawasee. Ford said the cost to complete the trail around Syracuse Lake would be about $110,000 and the committee needs to be innovative in raising the funds to help support it.

Ed Phillipp noted it had been quiet around Syracuse Lake during the winter and he thinks support for the trail has stalled. He told the committee completing one section of trail and then moving onto the next gives the trail committee validity.  He also suggested using the website to highlight what’s been done on the trail and who’s responsible, by donating funds it may help pique interest again.  Ford suggested approaching Syracuse Lake Association for help raising funds to complete the project. Discussion turned to ways funds could be raised to complete Northshore and Eastshore drives.

Ford updated the committee on McConnell/Skinner Ditch. The fence at Parker Hannifin has been moved and sidewalk will be installed soon. The bridge components will be shipped to Beer and Slabaugh in early May to be put together.  Buhrt asked about a rest stop. Paragon, owner of the former Arthur’s building, will allow a rest stop to be installed near the access road.

It was noted there has been a ground swell of interest in adopting a trail in part because of the Kiwanis Club cleaning up debris and brush from Pickwick and the Syznal family adopting that section to pick up trash. Ford noted Cathy Erb and her family are interested in adopting a segment of trail after seeing the cleanup crews at work.  Bob Trame reported the Kiwanis is planning a second cleanup day to complete pulling brush and debris off the Pickwick trail. He also suggested adopt-a-trail signage be installed.

Buhrt reported the website has been updated. He hasn’t signed up anyone to sponsor the website yet, stating he wasn’t sure who to approach when there are other needs on the trail. Ford told him to approach whoever he was interested in approaching. Ford asked if there was a counter to keep track of how many visitors came to the site.  Brandes said since Benson was hosting the site, it keeps track of the number of visitors.

Donn Baird, treasurer, noted most of what the trail committee currently has in its accounts will be spent on installing the bridge.