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Paddling 'jewel' reopens after 35 years

Kayakers head out on the Little Calumet River. The river makes up part of the Region's "greenways and blueways," the subjects of a new Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission plan.

Times file photo

PORTAGE — The Northwestern Indiana Planning Commission is nearing approval of a new plan to guide development of the Region's trails and recreational waterways.

But first, NIRPC is collecting public comments and hosting an open house on its Greenways+Blueways 2020 Plan. Comments are being accepted through March 2, and the open house is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at NIRPC's Portage office.

The new plan combines its 2007 predecessor with a 2010 Ped & Paddle Plan and with the environmental elements of NIRPC's 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan.

"The idea was to finally bring that together into one cohesive document with three major topics: conservation, recreation and transportation," NIRPC Transportation Manager Mitch Barloga said during a presentation at Tuesday's meeting of the commission's Technical Planning Committee. "We believe we have found the point in our planning history where it was right to bring them together."

NIRPC staff members have been working on the plan for more than two years. Public surveys, both electronically and in person along Region trails, yielded 730 responses, and an earlier public comment period led to significant revisions.

The Conservation chapter focuses on nine "priority conservation areas": the Grand Calumet River and other bodies of water in northern Lake County, the Indiana Dunes, the Moraine forest region in Porter and LaPorte counties, Hoosier Prairie and Oak Ridge County Park, Hobart Marsh and Deep River, Founder and Cedar creek watersheds, the Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area, Kankakee Marsh and the Little Calumet River.

The Recreation chapter focuses on 26 land trail corridors and 24 current and potential water corridors. The plan prioritizes and provides goals for their development and provides data on their usage.

The Transportation chapter focuses on tying the routes together into a cohesive, accessible whole. Chapters on Integration and Implementation focus on links between projects and policy goals.

"We to emphasize this through a spectrum of uses between conservation, recreation and transportation and how they all mix, how they all work together," Barloga said.

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Transportation reporter

Andrew covers transportation, real estate, casinos and other topics for The Times business section. A Crown Point native, he joined The Times in 2014, and has more than 15 years experience as a reporter and editor at Region newspapers.