Chesterton Tribune

Editorial: Community trail plan looks to future

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Foresight is a rare commodity in municipal affairs.

It hardly could be otherwise.

The daily grind weighs heavily on officials both elected and appointed. They have their budgets to meet, their deadlines to make, balances to strike, fires to extinguish. Their business in practice, if not in theory, is today’s, not tomorrow’s, and if their mind is never far from the future, neither is their eye ever off the present.

Yet tomorrow succeeds today with an iron certainty, and opportunities lost are lost forever. So when a group like the Friends of the Duneland Community Parks has not only the foresight to envision the Community Link Pathway—a network of hike-and-bike trails with trunk lines and spur tracks throughout the Tri Towns and north Porter County—but also the will to sell that vision to the officials who could make it so, the Chesterton Tribune can only applaud its effort and hope that those same officials refuse to allow the exigencies of the present to foreclose the possibilities of the future.

More than anyone else Cliff Fleming and Gary Babcoke are the brains and the heart behind the Community Link Pathway. Together they’ve drafted a concept map which features both a trail connecting Dogwood Park to Westchester Intermediate School and—more exciting still—one connecting east Chesterton to west Chesterton via a path beneath Ind. 49.

“A ribbon,” as Babcoke has called it, “of parks, open areas, and recreational facilities.”

As the name of their group intimates, however—changed recently from the more parochial Friends of the Chesterton Parks—the Friends of the Duneland Community Parks have a vision as comprehensive as it is ambitious: a network which would one day allow an intrepid bicyclist to pedal from Portage to Chesterton on the Duneland Prairie Trail, and thence to Duneland Cove or Coffee Creek Center; or thence to Mt. Baldy, via Porter’s proposed link between the Prairie Duneland Trail and the Calumet Trail; or thence to Lakeland Park in Burns Harbor; or thence to Sunset Hill Park in Liberty Township.

In short, from county line to county line, and never the need to share the trail with a car or a truck or a bus.

But Fleming and Babcoke will need more than a clap on the back and words of encouragement to bring the Community Link Pathway to pass. They will need easements and money. They will need the actions of officials and the cooperation of developers. And they will need a lot of good will, to persuade property owners of the value of co-existing with hikers and bikers, and a spot of good luck, if only to beat subdividers to the punch.

So far the Friends have made a promising start. They’ve had productive meetings with officials in Porter and Burns Harbor. They’ve convinced the Porter Park Board to amend its five-year master plan to reference a “Community Link Pathway.” And they’ve secured a pledge from developer John Mastile for an easement on two parcels in the First Addition to Parkview Place, should the trail from Dogwood to WIS happen to pass through that subdivision. Meanwhile, Porter continues independently to pursue its dream of a link between the Prairie Duneland and Calumet trails.

Twenty years from now, as our children and their children are tramping half the county in safety and comfort, we could well have the hindsight to commend the foresight of Fleming and Babcoke and the Friends.

Or—20 years from now, as our children and their children are risking life and limb merely to get from Point A to Point B within the corporate limits of Chesterton itself—we could have hindsight to wonder just how our officials managed to squander the foresight of a couple of visionaries.

 

Posted 7/25/2001