By Erlene Yentes
Executive Director, Syracuse-Wawasee Trail
Did you know the Syracuse-Wawasee Trail Committee is 20 years old?
Yes, the volunteer group was established in 2002 based on the vision, dedication and hard work of “founding fathers” like Spike Ford, David Brandes, David Lichenauer and Max Laudeman. Numerous others have also served on the committee and a special thanks also goes out to them as well.
After Conklin Bay was completed in 2020, people in the community wanted to know where the trail might go next. This prompted the current committee to launch a feasibility study, with USI Consultants, which kicked-off last March and the final report was received in December. Special thanks go to the feasibility sub-committee which consisted of Steve Coyle, Chad Jonsson, Tom Edington, Kay Young and Erlene Yentes. Working with USI, they developed a comprehensive report that will help expedite strategic plans and future trail development.
The study’s objectives were to evaluate options for expansion and connection of the existing trail. This includes providing safe routes to our neighborhoods, schools, parks, businesses and to explore our most iconic natural resource — Lake Wawasee.
The report examines more than 12 miles of future trail development, doubling the current trail system, and breaks down each of the sections into smaller color-coded segments. They can be implemented individually or combined depending on funding.
The report also considers the future of local and regional connectivity, widely viewed as a win-win by many observers – keeping in mind the Kosciusko County Comprehensive Plan indicates people want trails and greenways.
Looking at 2022, the Trail Committee is developing a matrix outlining potential land purchases, rights of way, utility pole relocations, wetland issues, water drainage and agency coordination. The report also specifically considers road crossings with an eye to safety and various routes including:
• Expansion from Conklin Bay south to Wawasee Middle School.
• An extension to Kern Field where new athletic fields are planned.
• Extending the current Syracuse-Webster Road to CR 1200N.
• Linking West Chicago Street between Syracuse-Webster Road and SR 13.
Within this process, the committee is requesting input from residents, trail users and businesses as the strategic plan develops. If you have not taken the survey please take a few moments and go to www.syracusewawaseetrails.com and click on “Take Our Survey.” A huge thank you to those who have submitted their feedback!
To learn more about the report and gain insight about the strategic plan for trails, you are invited to attend a community engagement meeting from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19, at the Syracuse Community Center.
Trails play a vital role in our community. The dedicated group of committee members past and present have contributed to 20 years of trail planning, development and fundraising. The vision of a connected community will continue to grow in 2022 as we plan for future trail development.
We hope to see you at the upcoming meeting.