CROWN POINT | A grant given to the city holds the seed for what officials hope will grow into a trail from Crown Point south.
The $25,000 award to Crown Point by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and an equal match of in-kind services provided by the city, will be used to begin planning for the Lakes of South County project.
The goal is to link recreation and green ecosystems from the Crown Point downtown southeast through park areas and beside small lakes.
The finished project, if funded, would guide people on foot or bicycle along a marked trail whose backbone would stretch from Crown Point to Lemon Lake County Park, and possibly to the Kankakee River.
As conceived, the path could join paved, dedicated trails and marked street lanes, from where the Erie Lackawanna biking and hiking trail stops at Summit Street in Crown Point, south.
"There is potential for both off-street and on-street connectivity," said Crown Point Planning Director Christopher Meyers, who is spearheading planning of the project for the city.
Early concepts evolved as officials talked about existing bike-hike trails and discovered few connections south of Crown Point, Meyers said.
Evaluation and an environmental assessment are starting.
The work product -- entitled The Lakes of South County -- A Recreational and Green Link Corridor Vision, is to be finalized by summer 2014 for the city's Plan Commission, according to the Indiana DNR.
Grant funding came from the Lake Michigan Coastal Grants program.
Areas covered by the proposed trail are on the southernmost edge of the Lake Michigan watershed, via local streams and waterways. Small lakes along the route, including Fancher Lake, Lake Seven and Hermits Lake, are possible offshoots of the path.
Other possibilities include offshoots diverting to areas of interest in Crown Point, Meyers said.
Input for the planning document will be sought from neighborhood residents and officials with Franciscan St. Anthony Health in Crown Point, as well as Lake County government officials who oversee Lemon Lake County Park.
"We want to have everybody at the table," Meyers said.
Cedar Lake Town Administrator Ian Nicolini has worked with Crown Point staff on the concept for the trail, which could intersect with a green corridor planned for Cedar Lake.
No cost estimate for the overall project was yet available.