Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Residents rap Porter pedway route RDC says too late to make changes

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By PAULENE POPARAD

If the town changes its route for the Orchard Pedestrian Way hike/bike trail now, according to Porter officials, the town likely would have to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars in engineering/consultant fees to reimburse money spent since 2003 under a federal grant.

According to former Town Council member Jon Granat, “This is the 11th hour and the 59th minute of this project.”

A construction contract has been let by the Indiana Department of Transportation, which is administering the grant, and grade stakes have been placed along the route.

Nevertheless, a delegation of residents presented a petition Tuesday to the Porter Redevelopment Commission in opposition to the pedway curving through Hawthorne Park. Jeff Bailey of Franklin Street said trails over unusable land like former rail rights-of-way are good, but taking prime parkland out of service goes too far.

Bailey is a new member of the Porter Park Board, but he said he was speaking as a private citizen.

The actual trail to be built on town right-of-way will be 8 feet wide with 1-foot shoulders although the stakes identify a wider path for construction purposes. Three private residences on Franklin Street will lose the use of about half their front yards, said Bailey, and one resident will lose all access to parking near her home.

Julie Cunningham said she has no alley and her water shut-off and sewer line will be under the trail. RDC president Greg Stinson said town officials and consultants are looking at options to address Cunningham’s concerns since it wasn’t known the utilities are there.

He also said the Park Board, not the town, owns Hawthorne Park and the RDC can’t unilaterally change the pedway route there. The former Park Board in 2012 negotiated with the RDC through a third party for several months before agreeing to the present alignment, at times at odds over the Park Board’s Hawthorne drainage concerns that were recently addressed.

When Bailey proposed a more direct route Tuesday through Hawthorne from Franklin, Stinson said that was considered but rejected earlier. “Moving the trail won’t make everybody happy either.”

RDC member Elka Nelson told the large audience, “I guarantee you we won’t leave a landlocked house without parking.” She also said she didn’t want anyone to think she was discounting their opinion, but the pedway route has been addressed previously at a formal public hearing and at several public meetings and this level of opposition was never voiced.

Noted Stinson, “Unfortunately, we’re beyond the planning stage. We’re in the shovel stage.”

Franklin Street resident Kathleen Strain said no one understood until the stakes were placed how the Hawthorne leg of the trail would be separated from the roadway, not on it, in an area where many people are using the park.

Some questioned why Porter’s Brickyard Trail is a sidewalk in some areas and shares roadway, not abuts it, in others. Stinson said the Brickyard and pedway trails are funded with different grants with different requirements.

RDC member Joe Simanski said he came to the commission in 2012 yet from his previous municipal experience it appears the RDC gave ample opportunity for input on the Orchard pedway; the Park Board made what it thought was its best decision and it’s hard for the RDC to disagree with that, he continued, promising to follow up on Cunningham’s concerns.

Nelson and Stinson explained that late changes were able to be made to the east leg of the pedway along Woodlawn Avenue because its terminus was always the State Park Little League field entrance, which this year was moved farther west of the original League Lane.

Despite its name, Stinson said the pedway isn’t merely pedestrian access for the Orchard Apartments on Waverly Road. Additional pedway linkages are planned from the future Dunes Kankakee Trail.

Former six-year RDC member Al Raffin said the commission spent a lot of money studying alternative Orchard pedway routes through the years and even if the current one isn’t perfect, it’s the best option available.

Granat suggested thinking of the pedway as a sidewalk that’s an enhancement to the park and will get children safely there. He also believes the four Park Board members (three no longer on the board) who were instrumental in the pedway decisions wouldn’t do anything detrimental to the park. “Other than their family, the park was No. 1.”

RDC member Jeannine Virtue observed that the town is in no financial position to repay a six-figure sum if it pulls the plug on the pedway now. She urged residents to continue to voice their opinion about town matters.

Terry Gault said it’s not that people don’t come to meetings; it’s that their concerns aren’t heard. Gault asked how Porter can afford a new bike trail if it doesn’t have money to fix sidewalks. Stinson said the town’s trail grant match is coming from another grant that doesn’t pay for sidewalks.

RDC member Erik Wagner was present but did not comment; Duneland School Corp.-appointed member Ron Stone was absent.

In related business, the RDC approved two changeorders for the Dunes Kankakee Trail: one adding $2,576 to the cost for larger limestone base, and a second extending the completion date because the contractor was asked not to start until after the July 4 weekend.

 

Posted 7/24/2013