WARSAW — Warsaw and Winona Lake have each been designated a Bicycle Friendly Community. And the trails systems which in large part caused that designation to become a reality will continue to develop this year.
Justin Taylor, a planner for the city of Warsaw, also chairs the Ride+Walk Advisory Committee, a group of about 15 to 17 people who began meeting monthly in 2012 and are passionate about riding and walking. The committee is made up of teachers, business owners, city employees and other advocates.
Taylor noted there are multiple projects either completed, pending or ongoing within the Warsaw area. Near the technology park at US 30 and Silveus Crossing a side path was finished in April. It connects to another side path that goes past Madison Elementary School and connects to the tech park, an apartment complex and a retirement village near Kohl’s.
“It is a 10 foot wide path and we will try to add to the system,” Taylor said, noting work will begin next on CR 300N and will allow safer walking and bicycle riding to Kohl’s and Madison Elementary.
Along Northpoint Drive near the movie theater a sidewalk will be taken around to connect residents to Harrison Elementary and the YMCA. “It is an important connection and the engineering has started,” he said, with fall as a possible start date for the project.
Phase one of the Market Street project, a 10-foot sidewalk on the south side starting at the trailhead park at McKinley and going west into downtown Warsaw is completed. Work is underway on the second phase of the project and will be mostly done this fall.
“This is a more notable one,” Taylor said. “It creates a connection from Winona Lake to downtown. We are looking at taking it through downtown to connect to the greenway on the west side.”
Bike lanes are being repainted in the city to make them more visible again and hopefully to alleviate the safety issues that can and have been caused. Bicyclers and motorists should learn to share the road, but it’s not always one side or the other causing problems. “It works both ways,” Taylor said, emphasizing bicyclers need to understand the rules of the road too.
Long Term Planning
A long term project, with heavy emphasis on “long term,” is looking at the possibility of building a trail northward from Warsaw toward Leesburg and then Milford. Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Next Level trails initiative, the largest of its kind in the state’s history, is a potential source for grant funding.
A potential path for the trail would be following the old roadbed of the long ago defunct Winona Interurban Railway system. It parallels SR 15 for a good portion between Warsaw and Milford.
But, Taylor cautioned, the project would literally start at ground level and would require extensive community involvement, particularly at the county level. “We don’t really know yet how much we (city of Warsaw) would be able to get involved in this,” he said.
The roadbed is essentially state owned right of way, but another hurdle will be to figure out what rights do adjacent property owners have. “They may have first dibs on it,” Taylor commented.
Another future endeavor would include looking at opportunities to expand the greenway west out of the city and connecting it to the rest of the county. A possibility this year is to add a 2-foot stripe separating cars and bicyclists creating a buffered bike lane on Fort Wayne Street from Park Avenue to Bronson Street. Narrowing the lane of travel slows motorists down, he said “and they just fly through there quite often.”
Taylor said trail systems bring in tourism, support more active and healthy lifestyles and give companies more incentive to locate in the city.