(Posted Feb. 18, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
New ideas are on the table for installing campsites along the portion of the Ohio to Erie bike trail that runs through Madison County.
The Madison County Park District board, comprised of the three county commissioners, with input from the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails (FMCPT) volunteer group, is pursuing state grant funding to give trail users a place to stay overnight.
Originally, the idea was to purchase 14 acres of land at Midway Street and State Route 38 in London, near the Madison County Senior Center and the Prairie Grass trailhead. Plans called for clearing space for tent camping and building an observation tower that could double as vertical camping.
On Feb. 16, commissioner Paul Gross pushed for an alternative. He said he spoke with London officials about the possibility of buying 50 acres of city-owned land at the old tile mile site along Center Street near the bike trail’s Roberts Pass trailhead.
The long-range plan for the overall tile mill property is to convert it to a nature preserve with a wetland overlook, extended parking, a shelter house, and campsites, said Wayne Roberts, FMCPT executive director. Roberts also noted that FMCPT owns four acres adjacent to the city’s 50 acres.
Gross said 50 acres would give the park district more flexibility in planning for campsites and other improvements than would the 14 acres at the other trailhead.
“The biggest downside is no bathroom right there,” he conceded. “Another downside is I have heard it is a bit of a mosquito haven in that area.”
Commissioners Mark Forrest and David Dhume suggested contacting the owners of a nearby business property about the potential for tapping into their plumbing to create a basic restroom facility not far from the proposed campsite.
Gross asked the FMCPT volunteers, who spend hundreds of hours yearly helping to monitor, maintain and improve the trail, their opinion on the tile mill alternative. Their initial responses were varied.
“We’re still a couple of years away from developing the wetland area (at the tile mill), so I’d rather go for the campsite at the trailhead (near the senior center),” said Julia Cumming, consultant to the park district board.
Roberts said he likes the tile mill campsite idea but that it comes with the hurdle of no running water. Also, he said the senior center site would likely be less prone to vandalism because of the high level of activity and awareness at the senior center.
Roberts suggested a virtually no-cost short-term solution: clear brush from a small chunk of land the park district already owns behind the senior center. The space would have room for about three tent campsites and at least get London on the map as a place with overnight accommodations along the trail.
With no immediate consensus on which direction to take, Gross said the park district would hold off on signing a contract with the owners of the 14 acres behind the senior center. The FMCPT members said they would discuss the topic at their next meeting, which was set for Feb. 17.
The two grants for which a campsite project or associated improvements might apply are the Clean Ohio Trail Fund and the Clean Ohio Greenspace Fun, the deadlines for which are April and July, respectively.
Tree maintenance along trail
FMCPT members suggested that the park district take a proactive approach and cut down dead trees that might fall on the bike path. Gross said the cost would be too prohibitive. He also said FMCPT volunteers can no longer cut up and remove trees that do fall on the path, citing the activity as too prone to liability, according to the county prosecutor. The park district will call on contracted help to remove fallen trees, he said.
Sealcoating contract awarded
The park district chose Dura-Seal Ohio of Columbus to sealcoat the 6.4 miles of the bike path that runs between London and the Madison-Clark county line. Dura-Seal’s $25,234 bid was the best and lowest bid submitted for the job. The two-day project requires temperatures of at least 50 degrees and no rain. Jim Schneider, the project manager, said the work must be done by Sept. 20. He said it likely will be done in August.