(Posted Feb. 22, 2018)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails (FMCPT) plans to hold a ribbon-cutting on April 7 to celebrate the completion of an extension of the Ohio to Erie Trail in downtown London.
The extension runs between Maple and Walnut streets. The long-term goal is to run the extension to Midway Street, eliminating a 1.13-mile gap in the trail in Madison County.
The Madison County commissioners purchased land last year to make the Maple-to-Walnut extension possible. The Madison County Engineer’s Office is heading up construction. Volunteers helped to clear brush.
FMCPT, a non-profit that helps to maintain and improve the trail, has raised $66,000 of the $78,000 needed for the extension. They continue to seek donations, which can be made: by check to “FMCPT Trail Gap,” P.O. Box 308, London, OH 43140; through PayPal at fmcpt.com, or via the organization’s gofundme account.
On Feb. 15, FMCPT leaders presented ideas to the Madison County Metropolitan Park District board for further development of the land on which the extension is being built. The park district board consists of the three county commissioners.
The FMCPT representatives said the 3.5 acres has room for a small building to house trail maintenance equipment. Currently, the group rents storage space for their equipment. They also envision an access road to the building and a small parking area. The building also could function as a meeting space and trailside greeting area.
The commissioners said they aren’t opposed to FMCPT looking into the building idea, but cautioned that the structure would probably cost more than the group might anticipate.
Wayne Roberts, FMCPT executive director, also updated the park district board on another improvement idea–an 8×8-foot shower facility attached to the bathroom at the trailhead behind the Madison County Senior Center on West High Street. Primitive camping sites are located in the area; a shower would be handy for bicyclists who use the campsites, Roberts said.
If the Senior Center board approves of the proposed location of the shower, FMCPT will pursue full-blown architectural drawings and plans, which they will bring back to the senior center board for approval, along with cost estimates.
Roberts said his organization plans to apply for a state Nature Works grant to possibly cover costs related to the shower project. Julia Cumming, the liaison between FMCPT and the park board, said the building at the trail extension also is a candidate for grant funding.
FMCPT has spearheaded improvements large and small since the trail’s beginning. With aging membership, the group wants the park board to take a more active role in overseeing the trail’s maintenance and ongoing development.
In December, the commissioners set aside $40,000 in the 2018 county budget for a part-time park district operations manager.
On Feb. 20, Rob Slane, county administrator, reported that no one with the right qualifications has come forward to fill the position.
So, instead of hiring an operations manager, the park district board is looking at forging a shared services agreement with the city of London. The idea, Slane said, would be to contract with London’s parks and recreation department for oversight, maintenance, and grant-writing work related to the trail.
“FMCPT members have got some concerns” about the shared services idea, Roberts said. They worry that without one person dedicated to the trail only, the vision for ongoing improvements will be lost. Cumming echoed these concerns.
Slane said it might be difficult to find the perfect person to handle the job. Alternatively, an agreement with the city would give the park district access to a whole department of personnel and resources, he said.
As for concerns about vision, Slane said the park district would set expectations of the contract with the city. Those expectations could include ongoing work toward trail improvements.
The county and city are still talking over the shared services idea. Both Slane and commissioner Mark Forrest said that if the agreement is made, it could be done on a one-year trial to see how it goes.