By David Hazledine
Members of Syracuse-Wawasee Trail Committee met Monday, Sept. 20, to review a draft of the trails feasibility study. Joining the meeting virtually were Wyatt Huber and Cory Daley of USI Consultants Inc., the Indianapolis firm conducting the study, who fielded members’ questions.
The committee plans to complete the feedback process by mid-October.
According to Erlene Yentes, SWTC executive director, the study will help provide information on where the trails will go next. The area of study is 12.4 miles, double the trails’ current size, and broken down into three major sections: A western portion including Kern Road, CR 1200N, Syracuse-Webster Road and West Chicago Street; a central portion including SR 13, Vawter Park Road, East Waco Drive and extending from the Conklin Bay Trail to the public boat launch on Lake Wawasee; and an eastern section stretching from East Turkey Creek Road around to Bishop Road.
The feasibility study will provide information as decisions are made moving forward, and much will depend on future funding and grant availability.
Yentes asked if Americans with Disabilities Act compliance had been adequately considered. Huber responded language could be added to anticipate ADA needs, while Daley noted without resurfacing, ADA could pose challenges, particularly with federally funded projects.
Steven Coyle expressed a desire to see alternate trail routes and options clearly broken down. “I think we need to break out options with headings rather than just alluding to it,” he opined.
Although time is quickly running out for the current round of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Next Level Trails grants, members wondered what information the study could provide to improve future funding opportunities.
“DNR doesn’t share specific criteria,” said Daley. However he and Huber agreed increased connectivity between multiple school systems and towns — Syracuse and North Webster, for example, and a connection with Wawasee Middle School — would “check off boxes.” Daley added DNR would also be interested in the level of public participation in the process.
Noting the wide array of possibilities for the trail in the future, Dr. Tom Edington said the study should be “flexible enough so that five years from now we’re not hamstringing ourselves.”
Kay Young agreed the study will be “something we can count on using for a long time.”
During financial reports, Edington said roughly $17,000 was raised at a “Life is Better on the Trail” fundraiser.
During old business, Yentes reported Aquatic Weed Control sprayed an invasive species of cattails at the Conklin Bay Trail boardwalk Aug. 27 for a cost of $1,925. A review will be made next spring to determine if further spraying is necessary.
A sign describing different plants on the larger Conklin Bay boardwalk is missing, said Yentes. Members decided to brainstorm alternate possibilities for a new informational sign. There has also been noticeable separation of boards on the railings of the boardwalk, which will likely require future repairs.
SWTC is also continuing to study the possibility of getting its own nonprofit 501c3 status, which will cost $1,500, according to Yentes.
SWTC will move out of the Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce building by Sept. 30, relocating to the Todd Realty building at 813 S. Huntington St.
Upcoming SWT events include Tails and Trails, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, at the Syracuse Community Center.
For more information on Syracuse-Wawasee Trails, visit www.syracusewawaseetrails.com,