MITCH BARLOGA: Swanson secured legacy for non-motorized culture

2012-12-06T00:00:00Z 2013-08-14T17:57:07Z MITCH BARLOGA: Swanson secured legacy for non-motorized cultureBy Mitch Barloga nwitimes.com
December 06, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Northwest Indiana boasts a number of outstanding leaders who have brought a passion toward bettering our economic climate and quality of life. At the end of this month, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission Executive Director John Swanson, my boss, will retire from his position that he has held since 2004. During this time John has demonstrated a genuine desire to better the lives of those who live and work in our three-county region.

Of importance to my own field, John has exhibited a tremendous interest in advancing non-motorized transportation options on several fronts.

He strongly endorsed the approval of the 2005 and 2010 Ped and Pedal Plans, and incorporated a number of goals from this plan into the Connections 2030 Transportation Plan, and the 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan.

John’s crowning achievement in the non-motorized realm was securing a substantial private grant from the Donnelley Foundation in 2005 toward the development of the Northwest Indiana Regional Greenways & Blueways Plan. This vanguard document outlined broad strategies to advance active and passive open spaces. In addition, the plan also represented the first regional analysis of water trail, or blueway routes.

In 2007, John secured additional funding to implement a number of water trail initiatives from Arcelor-Mittal. They provided financial assistance in the development of maps and signage along Lake Michigan and the Kankakee River. Thanks in large measure to the Greenways & Blueways Plan, the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association came into existence and now boasts over 400 members and a slew of “boots-on-the-ground” volunteers who regularly aid in opening up water trail routes.

Regarding terra firma trails, John secured funding to develop the first comprehensive bicycle map in 2008, and the 2012 edition with walking and water trail routes added. In 2009, John worked with the Burnham Centennial project and secured funding for a poster plan of the three-state Marquette Greenway proposal.

John also supported the adoption of a “Complete Streets” policy for all NIRPC-programmed projects in 2010. This policy assures that roadways will accommodate, to the greatest extent possible, non-motorized users of the corridor. NIRPC was one of the first regional planning agencies in the nation to adopt such a policy.

Beyond these signature achievements, John has consistently strived for NIRPC to be a leader in non-motorized transportation, and has provided me tremendous latitude in promoting leading edge policies and projects, and thus NIRPC has become a nationally-recognized leader in this area. To this end, John Swanson’s legacy is secure, and will continue to flourish for years to come.

Thank you, John, for your outstanding years of service to Northwest Indiana, and happy holidays (and trails) to you all!

Mitch Barloga is non-motorized transportation and greenways planner for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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