With National Trail Day being last Saturday (and with the immaculate weather I certainly hope you enjoyed a trail or two), I would like to focus on a major regional initiative.
When he first stepped into office in the mid-1980s, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., envisioned a series of lakeshore improvements which became the foundation of “The Marquette Plan: Indiana's Lakeshore Reinvestment Strategy,” which was released in 2005. This vision was expanded to encompass the entire Indiana lakeshore with a Phase II document spearheaded by NIRPC a few years later. Thanks to the efforts of the Regional Development Authority and municipalities, a number of these initiatives have been realized or are in progress.
A key proposal in the Marquette Plan is the development of an off-road trail from Chicago to New Buffalo. The location would have the trail traverse as close to the lakeshore as possible. In 2009, NIRPC pieced together 20 segments in various stages of development, and released a map identifying these links as “The Marquette Greenway.” The length of these segments added together totals just over 50 miles.
Two of the planned segments of the Marquette Greenway have been in existence for many years. These include the Calumet Trail along the Indiana Dunes State Park and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Although in poor condition today, the trail will be resurfaced in asphalt starting in late 2013. The other segment is the Marquette Trail in the Miller section of Gary. This facility is planned to be asphalted as well.
Within the last year, Whiting, Hammond and Gary have opened up various segments to the public. The Whiting Lakefront Trail, an RDA project, winds from Whiting Park south to the George Lake Trail. A spectacular new bridge, also funded by the RDA, now connects these two trails over Indianapolis Boulevard and New York Avenue. In Gary, they proudly opened the first phase of their Green Link trail just west of downtown.
In the short-term, Hammond also plans to extend the Marquette Greenway from George Lake to East Chicago via the Toll Road corridor. Michigan City’s Singing Sands-Lighthouse Trail will connect from the Calumet Trail to Washington Park along the lake. Future phases include a long-desired connection between the east and west landholdings of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore through Burns Harbor, Portage and Ogden Dunes.
The Marquette Greenway promises to knit together a diverse land use tapestry, bringing together sand, steel and wheels. For a copy of the Marquette Greenway map and plan, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 763-6060 ext. 133.
Mitch Barloga is nonmotorized transportation and greenways planner for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. The opinions are the writer's.