SCHERERVILLE | Building trails for walking and biking in Northwest Indiana begins at the local level with citizens putting gentle, consistent pressure on local politicians, according to a regional planner.
Mitch Barloga, non-motorized transportation and greenways planner with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, encouraged biking enthusiasts to work together in their communities to connect and extend the trails already built.
He presented the program Building Trails: From Me to WE on Wednesday at Trek Bicycle Shop, 651 E. U.S. 30. The store sits along the Pennsy Greenway Trail.
Since 1990, 100 miles of bike trails have been built, with about 20 miles along utility corridors with the help of NIPSCO, Barloga said.
“NIPSCO has been one of our best partners in Northwest Indiana,” he said.
Barloga called the 15-mile Pennsy Greenway “the Golden Trail” because it’s a bi-state trail with the same name embraced by the communities of Lansing, Munster, Schererville and Crown Point and built along an abandoned railroad right of way, Barloga said.
“NIRPC brought together these communities. It was a long process that started with the Pennsy Mainline Committee that met in 2002, 2003,” he said.
“It directly impacts a population of 120,000 people, the population in those towns,” Barloga said.
Close to 1 million people have access to the Pennsy Greenway system through other trails such as the Erie Lackawanna, the Veterans Memorial Trail and the Burnham Greenway that links to the Chicago Lakefront Trail, he said.
There are 500 miles of trails currently planned in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.
It takes an average of five years for a trail to be completed once funding is obtained, according to Barloga. With tax caps in Indiana and frozen tax levies in Lake County, finding that money locally is a major challenge, he said.
That’s where NIRPC come into play with access to federal dollars.
More than $30 million in federal monies have been used to create trails in Northwest Indiana, he said, which is “the reason for the burgeoning trails network in the region.”