PORTER | Several local dignitaries gathered Monday afternoon at the Indiana Dunes State Park historic gates to break ground for the long-awaited Dunes Kankakee Trail
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville., said the project, which will link Lake Michigan to the Kankakee River via a pedestrian-bike trail, is the work of many county, state and federal entities.
“This trail aims to improve the quality of life, and I would argue the health, safety and wellness of people, as well as improve the property values of those along the trail. With county-wide help our goal is to have 15 to 20 miles of this trail constructed by the end of this year. Everyone is taking action in concert and today is a terrific day,” Visclosky said.
The groundbreaking kicks off construction of the first section of the trail connecting Indiana Dunes State Park to the Dune Park NICTD Station on U.S. 12.
The trail has received funding from a number of sources, including an earmark of $500,000 in federal funds secured by Visclosky; matching funds through NIRPC and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources; and a $19 million grant through the Regional Development Authority, which also includes economic development work for the U.S. 20 and Ind. 49 corridor.
“Today is a great reason to celebrate,” said RDA CEO Sherri Ziller.
Planning and engineering for the trail is the work of SEH and principal Matt Reardon spoke about the future of the project.
“It is going to be a complicated one. We have a long way to go, through many municipalities,” Reardon said, while Mitch Barloga, NIRPC's non-motorized transportation and greenways planner, agreed that the trail has been challenging but will be worthwhile.
“This is basically a route from scratch. There’s a lot more energy in building that, rather than a trail using existing pathways like abandoned railroads. But NIRPC is proud to be a part of this and we are excited about the regional cooperation,” Barloga said.
Attendees included Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Heather Ennis who said it was “good to see what can come from strong planning and strong wills.”
Also attending were Herb and Charlotte Read, who have been instrumental in preservation and conservation in the Indiana Dunes State Park and throughout the region, Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas, Executive Director of the Porter County Plan Commission Bob Thompson, officials from the Indiana Dunes State Park and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, as well as Greg Stinson, president of the Porter Redevelopment commission and vice-president of the Porter Town Council.
“Today is a good day for visitors, town residents, and the community,” Stinson said before thanking Visclosky for his support and “vision of the Marquette Plan, which is one of sustainability and development, allowing us to thrive, knowing our area is preserved for generations to come.”