Steuben trail has been years in the making
By Mike Marturello | KPC Media - The Herald Republican
Many folks say conception of the Steuben County Multipurpose Trail dates its origins to somewhere around 1999.
Not so, says local Realtor Bill Bryan, a man who has pushed for the trail for years.
Bryan, who has been instrumental in getting children educated on safe bicycling and providing children with bikes through the Shriners, said the concept for the Steuben County trail dates to the late 1980s.
“I’ve been wanting something done for years,” Bryan said. “I got the idea when I was a kid, really, because you couldn’t ride your bike from Angola to the (Pokagon State) park,” he said.
There may have been some communities building trails in the 1960s or so when Bryan was a youngster, but it wasn’t happening in Steuben County. It hasn’t been necessarily the most politically popular thing to do in the 21st century.
Still, as an adult Bryan wanted to do something for the children who have followed him, and definitely the fitness-minded people in the community.
Bryan recalls the first meeting to discuss the trail. It included himself, representatives of Pokagon — Randy White, property manager at the time, and Fred Wooley, the park’s naturalist at the time — along with state Rep. Orville Moody, R-Angola.
To put the date into perspective, Moody, previously a longtime Angola Common Councilman, educator and businessman, passed in the summer of 1989. (It is, perhaps, fitting that the trail, when substantially complete this fall, will travel over Interstate 69 along East C.R. 400N on a dedicated walk constructed for the trail near the Rep. Orville Moody Memorial Bridge that spans Lake Charles.)
“I do appreciated all of the work that has been done before my time here,” said Jen Sharkey, Steuben County Highway engineer.
Momentum for the trail did resume in earnest in the late 1990s through a consortium of Angola and Steuben County leaders and citizens.
And even though the trail has gained popularity and is seeing much use in Angola and the one-mile trail in the county’s inventory, it has had to clear a few speed bumps over the years.
The Angola trail actually would have been longer had the Metropolitan School District of Steuben County not balked. There was a fear among MSD administration at the time that the trail, traveling near Hendry Park Elementary School, might be a path for unsavory characters wanting to do harm to children.
Then there’s been the cost, a tough pill for Steuben County officials — and some of their constituents — to swallow. The final leg, not a federal aid project like the first mile-plus, is costing about $1.5 million. The first phase was a federal aid project that cost about $1.64 million, of which Steuben County only had to pay $328,000.
To keeps costs down, Sharkey said, some changes were made to save on such things as retaining walls that would have had to be built in some of the more steep areas around Ramada Inn.
“We value engineered the project to be as cost efficient as possible,” Sharkey said.
While the final leg is a county project, it mimics the design standards of the first phase, the federal project, not only for safety, but for consistency, Sharkey said.
Speaking at a Tuesday meeting, Steuben County Council President Rick Shipe indicated that the political tide might be turning.
“Even though the bike trail has been a little bit controversial for some of us, in my travels around the state they’re popping up all over,” Shipe said, adding that the Steuben trail was a positive thing for quality of life in the community.
The final mile-plus of the Steuben County trail will probably be one of the more picturesque outside of Pokagon, save for an auto salvage facility that’s been popping up apparently unchecked in the 3800 block of S.R. 127. The trail will travel along S.R. 127, north from the trail head at C.R. 300N — Hoosier Hill.
When the trail gets to the Ramada Inn, it circles to the west around the hotel with some banked turns before coming back to S.R. 127. It then makes its way to C.R. 400N and over I-69 before turning north into Pokagon State Park. There the trail will be in a heavily wooded setting.
The trail will travel in a dedicated lane along S.R. 727 in Pokagon where it will connect to the first section of trail, which was built in 2001 using a state recycling grant. That section of trail incorporated crushed windshield glass in its asphalt, which at the time was an innovative way of recycling glass.
When that section of trail was dedicated in the summer of 2001, Gov. Frank O’Bannon was on hand for the ceremony.
The final leg of the trail will bring the entire project, from Pokagon to Angola, to a little more than 7 miles.
Long term, consortia of government leaders envision trails linking all across the state. For northeast Indiana, the trail that’s dubbed the Poka-Bache, would run from Pokagon State Park in Steuben County south to Ouabache State Park in Wells County.